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Invasion Prediction on Alaska Trails: Distribution, Habitat, and Trail Use

  • Elizabeth M. Bella (a1)

Abstract

Little is known about the relationship between frequency of occurrence and the expected maximum distance a nonnative species might spread along a trail once introduced to an ecological system with high native species integrity. Understanding how colonization and invasive plant habitat degradation occur in largely intact ecosystems is challenging. Determining which nonnative species are most likely to spread might be possible, given a suite of environmental or trail conditions. Spread may be linked to a particular set of environmental conditions, or to type and level of trail use. A field study conducted on trails in Forest Service and State Park lands on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, was designed to determine frequency and spread distance of all nonnative vascular plant species per 100-m segments keyed to vegetation type, canopy cover class, aspect, trail use level, and trail use type. Although the maximum total number of nonnative species decreased with increased distances from trailheads, the average number of species remained nearly constant. Common dandelion, broadleaf plantain, and annual bluegrass exhibited consistent presence per canopy cover class or vegetation type. A nested subset analysis revealed a significant reduction in nonnative species presence beyond a 500-m distance from a trailhead and a moderately strong nestedness pattern. High-use trails exhibited the greatest numbers of nonnative species at the farthest distances from the trailhead and contained a greater number of less common nonnative species. Alaska and other northern biomes have relatively few widespread invasive problems, offering an opportunity to limit ecosystem degradation by invasion. Results suggest that control strategies might focus on high-use trails with open-canopy habitats to prevent spread.

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Corresponding author

Corresponding author's E-mail: elizabeth.bella@lincoln.ac.nz

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Current address: Postdoctoral Fellow, Bio-Protection Research Centre, Lincoln University, Canterbury 7647, New Zealand

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References

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Invasion Prediction on Alaska Trails: Distribution, Habitat, and Trail Use

  • Elizabeth M. Bella (a1)

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