Checklist of vascular plants for Wind River Indian Reservation (USA) high-elevation basins: ecological drivers of community assemblages.
Background and aims: Native American reservations in the United States provide biodiversity critical for conservation and ecosystem functions. Unfortunately, botanical inventories are less common for reservations than other land jurisdictions. Such ecological importance and needs are apparent for the Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR), the 7th largest reservation in the US (>890,000 ha) that is shared by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho. Material and methods: A botanical study for two WRIR high-elevation basins (Saint Lawrence Basin (SLB) and Paradise Basin (PB)) to (1) reconcile a 1960 plant list, and (2) quantify plant communities ecologically was conducted. In 2017, 106 monitoring sites were established to quantify species presence. Across basins, 231 total vascular plant taxa (221 to species and 10 to genus) were identified, or > 3× more plant species than noted in the 1960 list. In SLB, 222 plant taxa (213 to species and 9 to genus) were identified and in PB 98 plant taxa (90 to species and 8 to genus) were identified. In 2018, sites were re-sampled to quantify species abundance, soil pH, organic matter, soil nutrients, CEC, salts, and texture. Key results: Slope and elevation explained species distributions in the topography ordination and soil organic matter, pH, texture, P, and K explained species distributions in the soil ordination. Eleven exotic species, and one rare endemic species were documented with implications for empowering tribal management. Using a classification approach followed by an indicator species analysis and fidelity (Phi) assessment, we identified 14 unique plant communities and related these to 6 alliances and 7 associations across 6 macrogroups from the US National Vegetation Classification database. These indicator species of communities included sedges (Carex aquatilus), grasses (Pseudoroegneria spicata, Elymus elymoides, Achnatherum lettermanii, Elymus trachycaulus subsp. trachycaulus, Poa glauca subsp. rupicola), forbs (Polygonum bistortoides, Balsamorhiza incana, Castilleja flava), shrubs (Artemisia tridentata, Betula glandulosa, Dasiphora fruticosa subsp. floribunda) and trees (Pinus contorta). Conclusion: The plant taxa, plant communities, and ecological drivers documented in this study will enhance tribal and federal monitoring of these high-elevation WRIR basins.