Protected-area sagebrush steppe ecosystems are few in number and increasingly important to the North American conservation network as sagebrush steppe faces growing threats from land use, climate change, and invasive species. We analyzed the distribution and abundance of native perennial and invasive annual plants to better understand patterns of plant invasion within two protected areas: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (JODA), located in central Oregon, and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (CRMO), located in southeast Idaho. We used multivariate analysis to examine vegetation monitoring datasets and illuminate geographic variation in plant cover along gradients of well-known aspects of resistance to plant invasion (elevation, exposure [slope and aspect], precipitation and proximity to disturbance). Topographically mediated resistance to invasion appeared to manifest in the park with greater topographic variability (JODA), while increased elevation was more strongly associated with resistant sites in the park, which spanned a greater elevational gradient (CRMO). Factors that may mitigate moisture-mediated resistance also differed between sites. Slope and aspect were factors of apparent resistance for bunchgrass communities in JODA, while high crop year precipitation appeared to benefit medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae [L.] Nevski) and the weedy native subshrub broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae [Pursh] Britton & Rusby) over bunchgrasses and Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young). Increased elevation and distance to disturbed areas were the most important factors of resistance in forb-rich communities at CRMO, with the invasive annuals cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.), tumblemustard (Sisymbrium altissimum L.), and Descurainia spp. Webb & Bethel. invading in low elevations and in close proximity to roads or agricultural fields. Such complexity underscores the idiosyncratic nature of the manifestation of resistance and the need for place-based empirical studies to provide information for guiding protected-area management.
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