National Park Service


Date of this Version



Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NGPN/NRTR 2012/647 / NPS 317/118213, December 2012: vii, 27 pages

Published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Please cite this publication as:

Ashton, I. W., M. Prowatzke, and S. K. Wilson. 2012. Plant community composition and structure monitoring for Scotts Bluff National Monument: 2012 annual report. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NGPN/NRTR—2012/647. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.


United States government work. Public domain material.


Executive Summary

the last remnants of native mixed-grass prairie in the region. The Northern Great Plains Inventory & Monitoring Network (NGPN) surveyed 8 long-term monitoring plots in Scotts Bluff National Monument in 2012 as part of an effort to better understand the condition of plant communities in the park. We measured plant diversity and cover, estimated tree and shrub density, looked for the presence of exotic species that are of concern to park management, and evaluated the amount of human and natural disturbance at all plots. This effort was the second year in a multiple-year venture to document the current status and long-term trends in plant communities in SCBL. At the end of five years, there will be an in-depth report describing the status of the plant community. In 2013, we will also revisit legacy plots that were established as part of the Prairie Cluster prototype monitoring. In this report, we provide a simple summary of our results from sampling in 2012.

We found that, while some areas of the park are highly impacted and have a high cover of exotic species, there are other areas that are in good condition with a high diversity of native plants. Annual bromes present the largest challenge to SCBL, and more research on effective management strategies in the mixed-grass prairie is greatly needed. Allowing for natural disturbances such as fire, light grazing by native herbivores, and prairie dogs may be critical to maintaining plant diversity in SCBL, but it should be balanced with the need to protect intact native communities and prevent further invasions of exotic species. Continued monitoring efforts will be critical to track changes in the condition of the vegetation communities in SCBL.