National Park Service


Date of this Version



Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NGPN/NRTR 2011/519 / NPS 317/112143, December 2011: vi, 23 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, M. Bynum, T. Shepherd, S. K. Wilson, K. Paintner-Green. 2011. Scotts Bluff National Monument plant community composition and structure monitoring: 2011 annual report. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NGPN/NRTR—2011/519. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.


United States government work. Public domain material.


Executive Summary

The Northern Great Plains Inventory & Monitoring Network (NGPN) was established to develop and provide scientifically credible information on the current status and long-term trends of the composition, structure, and function of ecosystems in thirteen parks located in five northern Great Plains states. NGPN identified upland plant communities, exotic plant early detection, and riparian lowland communities as vital signs that can be used to better understand the condition of terrestrial park ecosystems (Gitzen et al. 2010). Upland and riparian ecosystems are important targets for vegetation monitoring because the status and trends in plant communities provide critical insights into the status and trends of other biotic components within those ecosystems.

In 2011, NGPN began plant community monitoring in Scotts Bluff National Monument (SCBL). We visited seven long-term monitoring plots from June 6-8th, 2011, and recorded a total of 79 vascular plant species. This effort was the first year in a multiple-year venture to understand the status of upland 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 2011. We found the following:

 There was considerable variation among plots, but on average bare soil was one-third of ground cover. The absolute vascular plant cover was high due to a wet spring and early summer. Grasses and sedges made up the bulk of vascular plant cover at all sites.

 The sites at SCBL had a moderate diversity of vascular plants. Average native species richness in the 10 m2 plots was 8.0 ± 4.2 species (mean ± standard deviation).

 Exotic species occurred in all seven plots we visited. The relative cover of exotics species was 33% across the plots.

 The most common disturbance in plots at SCBL was small mammal burrowing, which occurred at three of the seven sites. One plot had recently been burned in a prescribed fire; this was the only plot with no target exotic species.