Resiliency of native prairies to invasion by Kentucky bluegrass, smooth brome, and woody vegetation.
Since Euro-American settlement of the region, biological diversity of the northern Great Plains has been adversely affected, mainly by agricultural conversion. The role of invasive plants in degradation of remaining prairies has gained attention in recent years but remains poorly understood. Floristic composition of US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) prairies is significantly altered, mainly by invasion of smooth brome (Bromus inermis Leyss.), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), and woody vegetation. We measured floristic composition of about 90 000 ha of Service-owned mixed-grass and tallgrass prairie in North Dakota, South Dakota, and northeastern Montana. Our primary objective was to identify factors associated with greater native grass-forb plant assemblages, while conversely identifying features more aligned with Kentucky bluegrass, smooth brome, and low shrub invasion. Service-owned prairies had a higher frequency of native grass-forb farther from habitat edges, such as cropland boundaries and roads, and on harsher ecological sites composed of poorer soils, steeper slopes, or with southern and western exposures. Kentucky bluegrass, smooth brome, and low shrubs differed in their respective responses to explanatory variables we considered and also reportedly differ in response to management actions such as fire and grazing. Therefore, prairie managers can expect significant challenges during restoration management in cases where two or more of these invaders occur. By understanding patterns of invasion related to edaphic, edge, and landscape features, prairie restorationists can focus on areas where the probability of restoration success is greater and better understand how these features might influence restoration success or failure.