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Regional Patterns of Major Nonnative Invasive Plants and Associated Factors in Upper Midwest Forests

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Abstract: Nonnative invasive plants (IPs) are rapidly spreading into natural ecosystems (e.g., forests and grasslands). Potential threats of IP invasion into natural ecosystems include biodiversity loss, structural and environmental change, habitat degradation, and economic losses. The Upper Midwest of the United States encompasses the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin, a region populated with 46 million people. Concerns of IP threats to the productive timberlands in the region have emerged with rapid expansion of urban areas and associated land cover changes caused by increasing human disturbances. Using the strategic inventory data from the 2005‐2006 US Department of Agriculture Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis program and other data such as forestland cover and transportation coverage/layers, we modeled the regional patterns of IPs by using a combination of nonparametric techniques, including classification and regression tree analysis, kernel density smoothing, and bootstrapping. For the Midwest region, a probability map and historical records of human-related introduction of IPs of interest suggests that invasive shrubs, herbs, and grasses were initially introduced into the central (sparsely forested) areas and then spread north and south (densely forested areas), whereas invasive vines spread primarily from the south into other parts of the region. The probability of IPs in densely forested areas (0.1) was one-fifth of that in sparsely forested areas. Shrubs are the predominant IP threat and are distributed across the vast region with the exception of the northern part. Invasive grasses and herbs are most abundant in the central part of the region, and invasive vines are most common in the southern part. Percent forest cover and road proximity (distance to roads) as indicators of anthropogenic disturbances, were the most significant drivers of IP occurrence/abundance. Site factors, including forest productivity and stand biodiversity, were significantly correlated with the occurrence of vines.
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Keywords: Forest Inventory Analysis; bootstrap; classification and regression tree; kernel density smoothing; nonnative invasive plant; probability

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 09 February 2013

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