National Park Service


Date of this Version



Plant Community Resource Brief, February 2012, 2 pages

The annual report on which the resource brief is based, as well as the detailed protocol and procedures and other products of the Northern Great Plains Network may be found at the plant community link on our website

Published by the United States National Park Service, Northern Great Plains Network


United States government work. Public domain material.


2011 Monitoring Status


In 2011, the first year of vegetation monitoring by the Northern Great Plains Network Inventory and Monitoring staff at Scotts Bluff National Monument, efforts resulted in the documentation of 79 plant species. This was the lowest number of species among parks sampled in 2011. Graminoid (grass and grass-like plant) species accounted for only 21 (27%) of the total species, but graminoid cover was much higher than that of any other plant type. Forbs were much more diverse, but did not provide as much foliar cover.

The 5 most abundant native non-graminoids were winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), 1%; scarlet globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea), <1%; Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum), <½%; slimflower scurfpea (Psoralidium tenuiflorum), <½%; and purple locoweed (Oxytropis lambertii), <¼%.


1. Capture baseline data on the status of park vegetation.

2. Document long-term trends in plant communities within the park.

3. Explore the relationship between changes in plant communities and climate change, grazing, fire, and other disturbances.

4. Provide information to assist park managers in decision-making.


Generating more than 99.9% of Earth’s biomass, plants are the primary producers of the biomass that supports life on our planet. Vegetation provides food and shelter to many species and it is a large part of the scenery that visitors to NPS units come to enjoy. Plant diversity and composition is sensitive to stressors including invasive species, habitat fragmentation, river flow management, climate change, atmospheric nutrient deposition, pollution, and altered fire and grazing regimes, and can show effects of management activities including prescribed fire programs, exotic species control, and wildlife management. Vegetation monitoring can provide feedback on management activities, is critical for understanding the current health of ecosystems, and can alert us to degradation of an ecosystem.