National Park Service

Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network (ERMN)

Early Detection of Invasive Species Monitoring

Japanese knotweed flower and bee
Japanese knotweed flower and bee

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Weeds Across Borders 2010

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Vital Signs

Invasive Species (plants, animals, and diseases) — Early Detection


Early detection monitoring of incipient invasive plants, animals and diseases was ranked among the top priorities in the Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network (ERMN) in the vital signs selection process due to the clear identification of, and concern about, the effects these organisms can have on park ecosystems. The known ecological impacts of invasive species include loss of threatened and endangered species, altered structure and composition of terrestrial and aquatic communities, and reduction in overall species diversity. In addition, alteration of ecosystem processes occurs, such as the disruption of natural succession, prevention of seedling establishment of native plants, disruption of native insect-plant associations, alteration of natural fire regimes, hybridization with native plant species resulting in altered genomes, and introduction of reservoirs for harmful plant pathogens.

While long-term changes associated with invasive species are being monitored through other protocols, it is also critical to catch new populations of exotic species early in their invasion of new and sensitive areas. Only when invasions are caught early will the chance of eradication remain high. In a few instances, early detection and eradication efforts have been successful at either eliminating the potential invasive species or containing it. A system of early detection and rapid response in the ERMN would provide managers with a valuable management tool for coping with these pests.

While the use of remote sensing and predictive models for early detection has been considered in the ERMN (including a project to develop predictive search models for invasive plants at DEWA and UPDE), having more knowledgeable “eyes and ears in the field” (a.k.a. Surveillance Monitoring) is one applicable approach for the entire ERMN that will be developed. The focus of early detection monitoring in the ERMN will begin with surveillance monitoring of invasive plant and forest pest species and will focus on educating all field crews, cooperators, resource managers, and volunteers on invasive species identification and also provide a coherent framework for reporting and disseminating information on potential infestations.

Monitoring Effort

all ERMN parks

Monitoring Objectives

  • Develop and maintain a list of target “watch” species that occur in localized areas of parks, are extremely rare, or are not currently present within a park, but have the potential to cause major ecological or economic problems if they were to become established.
  • Detect incipient populations (i.e., small or localized) and new introductions of these target non-native species before they become established in areas of high and moderate management significance.
  • Develop, maintain, and distribute appropriate target species identification information for all ERMN field crews, cooperators, resource managers and volunteers.
  • Develop and maintain an early detection tracking system.
  • Target limited management resources toward highest priority risks.

For more Information contact:

  • Doug Manning, Vegetation Technician, Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network

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