Little is known about the relative importance of environmental, biotic, historical, and spatial factors that influence invasive plant abundance, dominance, and distribution across landscapes. We identified factors that influence the abundance and dominance of Potentilla recta L. (sulfur cinquefoil) in bunchgrass grasslands of northeastern Oregon to better understand the conditions under which it becomes a major component of plant communities. We estimated P. recta stem density and dominance from field measurements across the landscape and used classification and regression tree analyses to assess the importance of environmental, biotic, spatial, and historical factors in explaining P. recta presence, stem density, and dominance. Plots were sampled within a systematic grid with 250-m spacing within our 6.5-km2 study landscape. At each sample point we recorded P. recta presence, stem density, and dominance as well as 11 biological, environmental, spatial, and historical variables. P. recta was widely distributed, with stem densities in occupied plots averaging 5.8 stems • m−2 and dominance values ranging from 1% to 52%. Percent cover of bare ground was the most important variable to predict the presence of P. recta, though the model fit was poor, likely because the entire study area is suitable for P. recta establishment. A strong relationship between P. recta dominance and habitat type (r2 = 67.5%) was found, with dominance greatest in old fields on relatively flat slopes (mean dominance of 34.1%). Dominance estimates were ≤ 1% in plots located in forest, shrub, and grassland habitats. Factors that make old fields susceptible to dominance remain unknown, though microsite conditions that increase P. recta seedling survival rates and limited native propagule availability due to previous cultivation may be involved. Since old fields are found throughout the region, are highly susceptible to P. recta invasion, and represent a source of seeds, containment and restoration activities should focus on these areas.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3