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20 October 2022 Five-Year Effects of Introduced Mountain Goats and Recreation on Plant Communities and Species of Conservation Concern in an Alpine Sky Island
Jeanne C. Chambers, Barb Smith, L. Scott Baggett
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Alpine ecosystems in the arid southwestern United States are vulnerable to climate change. Many of these ecosystems are experiencing increased recreational use and introductions of nonindigenous ungulates. In the La Sal Mountains of southeastern Utah, alpine plant communities support an endemic plant species, Erigeron mancus, 11 plant and two animal species of conservation concern, and a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Research Natural Area. Nonindigenous mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) were introduced by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) in 2013 and 2014, and recreational use has increased in the intervening period. To evaluate potential effects of mountain goat and recreational use, vegetation monitoring was initiated by the USDA Forest Service in 2016. We used 5 y monitoring data (2016–2020) and generalized linear mixed models to analyze the separate and interacting effects of year, recreational use, and mountain goat use on: (1) populations of plant species of conservation concern; (2) vascular and nonvascular plant cover; and (3) ground cover. Our analyses revealed decreases in proportional frequency of E. mancus at the end of the monitoring. Proportional cover of dominant plant growth forms, especially forbs, declined, while proportional cover of litter and ineffective ground cover (bare soil and pavement) increased. Recreational or goat use were a factor in several of the observed changes, although weather and climate likely also influenced the results. Management complexity arises because of the different missions of USDA Forest Service and UDWR, but adjustments in mountain goat numbers and recreational use may be needed to maintain ecologically resilient ecosystems. Continued monitoring can provide the basis for adaptive management.

Jeanne C. Chambers, Barb Smith, and L. Scott Baggett "Five-Year Effects of Introduced Mountain Goats and Recreation on Plant Communities and Species of Conservation Concern in an Alpine Sky Island," The American Midland Naturalist 188(2), 177-198, (20 October 2022).
Received: 2 January 2022; Accepted: 20 July 2022; Published: 20 October 2022

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