Six large wildfires have burned in Mesa Verde National Park during the last 15 years, and extensive portions of burns were invaded by non-native plant species. The most threatening weed species include Carduus nutans, Cirsium arvense, and Bromus tectorum, and if untreated, they persist at least 13 years. We investigated patterns of weed distribution to identify plant communities most vulnerable to post-fire weed invasion and created a spatially explicit model to predict the most vulnerable sites. At the scale of the entire park, mature pinon-juniper woodlands growing on two soil series were most vulnerable to post-fire weed invasion; mountain shrublands were the least vulnerable. At a finer scale, greater richness of native species was correlated with greater numbers of non-native species, indicating that habitats with high native biodiversity are at the greatest risk of weed invasion. In unburned areas, weed density increased with greater soil nitrogen and phosphorus, and lower salinity. In burned areas weed density correlated with soil nitrogen status and textural class. We also evaluated the effectiveness of a variety of weed. mitigation methods; aerial seeding of targeted high-risk areas with native grasses was the most effective treatment tested. We recommend a conservative mitigation plan using natives grass seed on only the most invasible sites.
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