Protected area managers often face uncertainty when managing invasive plants at the landscape scale. Crested wheatgrass, a popular forage crop in the Great Plains since the 1930s, is an aggressive invader of native grassland and a problem for land managers in protected areas where seeded roadsides and abandoned fields encroach into the native mixed-grass prairie. Given limited resources, land managers need to determine the best strategy for reducing the cover of crested wheatgrass. However, there is a high degree of uncertainty associated with the dynamics of crested wheatgrass spread and control. To compare alternative management strategies for crested wheatgrass in the face of uncertainty, we conducted a decision analysis based on information from Grasslands National Park. Our analysis involves the use of a spatially explicit model that incorporates alternative management strategies and hypotheses about crested wheatgrass spread and control dynamics. Using a decision tree and assigning probabilities to our alternative hypotheses, we calculated the expected outcome of each management alternative and ranked these alternatives. Because the probabilities assigned to alternative hypotheses are also uncertain, we conducted a sensitivity analysis of the full probability space. Our results show that under current funding levels it is always best to prioritize the early detection and control of new infestations. Monitoring the effectiveness of control is paramount to long-term success, emphasising the need for adaptive approaches to invasive plant management. This type of decision analysis approach could be applied to other invasive plants where there is a need to find management strategies that are robust to uncertainty in the current understanding of how these plants are best managed.
Nomenclature: Crested wheatgrass, Agropyron cristatum (L.) Gaertn.