National Park Service

Chihuahuan Desert Network (CHDN)

CHDN invasive plants icon symbol

Invasive Exotic Plants Monitoring


Invasive exotic plants represent one of the most significant threats to natural resources, especially biological diversity, in national parks. Invasive plants can reproduce prolifically, rapidly colonize new areas, displace native species, and alter ecosystem processes across multiple scales. Established invasive exotic plants may exist in small populations for long periods of time, making detection difficult. If discovered in the early stages of colonization, however, control efforts are likely to cost less and achieve higher success rates than after a species has become more widespread. Therefore, it is critical to both detect exotic plants during this time period between introduction and subsequent rapid expansion, and to implement a rapid management response.

Monitoring Objectives

  1. To detect the initial occurrence for any of a subset of high-priority species in areas of high- and low-invasion probability (e.g., along road and trails versus interior areas).
  2. To determine changes in the status and trend (density, abundance, or extent) of a subset of high-priority species in areas of high- and low-invasion probability.
  3. To determine changes in species composition of a subset of high-priority species in areas of high- and low-invasion probability, taking into account any management treatments that occurred between sampling intervals.


  • Detection of initial "new" occurrences of invasive exotic plants.
  • Determination of status and trends in known populations: presence, abundance, frequency, and/or distribution.

Management Applications

Information gathered from this monitoring will:

  • Detect exotic plants early in the invasive cycle, when eradication is most effective, economical, and ecologically sound.
  • Support a long-term, ecosystem-wide strategy for controlling invasive plant species.
  • Provide park managers with access to systematically collected information that enables them to be well informed about the status of ecosystems and prioritize dedication of limited resources to invasive plant control efforts.

Protocol Status

The protocol has been peer reviewed, and is in the final revision stages. CHDN pilot tested this protocol in 2010 and implemented it in all parks in 2011.

Status and Trends

Status information is provided in annual monitoring reports and briefs (see LOCATION). Insufficient data have been collected for trend determination.

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Last Updated: February 12, 2016 Contact Webmaster