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Invasion by non-native species is widely recognized as one of the greatest threats to native biodiversity and natural ecosystems. Though wilderness and other protected areas often appear pristine to the casual observer, they are not immune to invasions by exotic plants, animals and pathogens. In an effort to collect baseline data on the presence, distribution, threat, and control of non-native species, the Leopold Institute has initiated two projects. The first was a survey of exotic plants in all federal wilderness areas. We more recently conducted a survey of invasive and exotic species in National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness Areas.
Why special projects for Wilderness areas?
Invasive species in wilderness are of particular concern because the Wilderness Act of 1964 mandates that wilderness areas be maintained in their natural condition and because wilderness areas provide valuable ecological benchmarks by which we can measure environmental change. There have been several studies on the impacts of invasive species in other kinds of preserves, but the extent of invasions in Federal wilderness areas remains largely unknown.
Interagency Exotic Plant Survey and Database
In 1997-98, the Leopold Institute contracted with Marilyn Marler and the University of Montana to conduct a survey to investigate the extent of exotic plant invasions in Wilderness areas. Over 300 Wilderness areas managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service participated in the survey, which resulted in a database, a final report, and a publication (all available below).
Download this database and its key.
A publication detailing the findings of this survey can be downloaded as a pdf document from http://www.wilderness.net/library/documents/Marler_5-39.pdf. This report is cited as:
Marler, M. J. 2000. A Survey of Exotic Plants in Federal Wilderness Areas. Pages 318-327 in Cole, D. N., S. F. McCool, W. T. Borrie, J. O'Laughlin (Comps.). Wilderness science in a time of change: Wilderness ecosystems, threats, and management (Volume 5). Proc. RMRS-P-15-VOL-5. Ogden, UT. USFS, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
The final report is available from the Leopold Institute and can be downloaded as a pdf document from http://leopold.wilderness.net/unpublished/UNP106.pdf. This report is cited as:
Marler, M. J. 1998. Wilderness invasion: Current status and future directions. Final report on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, Missoula, MT. 44 p.
For further information on this project, please contact Vita Wright.
National Wildlife Refuge Invasive and Exotic Species Survey and Database
In the summer of 2001, the Leopold Institute, in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, conducted a survey of invasive and exotic species within National Wildlife Refuge wilderness areas. The Presidential Executive Order on Invasive Species (2/3/99) directed all federal agencies to prevent and control introductions of invasive species in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner. Since the Executive Order, activities to prevent and control invasive plant and animal species have become a USF&WS priority on all National Wildlife Refuges. The primary purpose of this project is to develop a database that can function as an internet-based tool for monitoring the status of invasive species in specific wilderness areas and as a resource for information on invasive species problems and control measures in other refuges.
RESEARCH IN A NUTSHELL: Invasive And Exotic Species In National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness Areas
Tempel, D.J., A.B. Cilimburg, and V. Wright. 2004. The status and management of exotic and invasive species in national wildlife refuge wilderness areas. Natural Areas Journal 24(4): 300-306.