Vegetation composition, structure, and soils are important habitat elements in all Rocky Mountain Network parks. Vegetation structure and composition are fundamental determinants of wildlife habitat characteristics and quality, visitor experiences, cultural/historic landscape quality (in the cases of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site), and basic ecosystem functioning (e.g., via primary production; cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients; and micro-climate controls). In addition to providing information about the condition of these ecosystems, data from this monitoring will help characterize parkwide ecosystem responses to other Vital Signs (drivers), including Weather and Climate, Wet and Dry Deposition, Landscape Dynamics, Invasive/Exotic Plants, and habitat conditions for Focal Species (e.g., elk, grizzly bear, and endemic Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve insects).
Preliminary Monitoring Objectives
- Determine status and trend in vegetation structure, species composition, and diversity in grassland, shrubland, and woodland ecosystems within network small parks.
- Determine status and trends in abundance of invasive/exotic plant taxa in these areas based on park-specific lists of likely and ecologically significant invaders at each park.
- Determine the status and trend in soil condition based on a combination of inherent (texture and chemistry) and dynamic (surface stability, evidence of erosion, exposure of mineral surface) soil properties, where appropriate at the park scale at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
- Plant species and lifeform composition, frequency, cover
- Tree density, biomass, canopy health, and regeneration
- Invasive plant taxa frequency and cover
- Soil texture and bulk density
- Soil chemistry
- Exposure and/or erosion of bare soil
Protocol Development and Status
The Rocky Mountain Network Upland Vegetation and Soils protocol was published in 2011. We monitor upland vegetation and soils using this protocol in a subset of long-term monitoring plots every year in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
Parks This Protocol is Monitored At
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
- Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Vital Signs This Protocol Monitors
- Invasive/Exotic Plants
- Vegetation, Composition, Structure, and Soils (small park grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands)