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More than 110 exotic plant species are now documented on the Kenai Peninsula, of which more than 70 are known to be on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.  Their distribution is almost exclusively restricted to areas disturbed by human activity. 

The initial inventory of the Refuge's Long Term Ecological Monitoring Program, conducted in 2004, 2006 and 2008, documented only three exotic vascular plant species (Lupinus polyphyllus, Poa trivialis and Taraxaxum officinale ssp. officinale) that occurred on only 7 (<3%) of 255 plots distributed at 5-km intervals across 2 million acres.  However, elsewhere within the human footprint of the refuge, exotic vascular plants are abundant. A 2005 survey by Caleb Slemmons initially documented more than 30 exotic plants species on 85% of 269 plots within disturbed areas of the Refuge (oil and gas fields, seismic lines, trails, roads, and right-of-ways).  A 2005-06 BAER-funded survey of the 2004 Glacier Creek Fire on Tustumena Lake found 19 exotic plant species (including Asperugo procumbens, a new record for Alaska) on historic cabins in remote Wilderness.  A 2006 survey of the Hanson Horse Trail found 8 exotic plant species, mostly common forage, associated with traditional camp sites used by horse packers.  A 2006 survey by Barnett and Simonson found 28 exotic species on 74 permanent monitoring plots that were randomly allocated within several strata of human activities.  Lastly, surveys conducted in 2007 and 2009 in the Swanson Oil and Gas Field found 62 exotic plant species on 90+ pads and along connecting roads including infestations of Hieracium caespitosum, H. umbellatum, Melilotus alba, and Phalaris arundinacea.   

Because the Refuge is mostly pristine (at least with respect to species composition) except along the urban interface, staff were quick to implement an early detection and rapid response (EDRR) approach that targets all access points into the refuge interior:  public trail heads, boat launches, and campgrounds; commercial oil and gas leased areas; and the Refuge's maintenance yard (where heavy machinery and vehicles are stored) and the aircraft hangar. 

Our management response includes chemicals (glyphosate, Milestone), weed pulls, bootbrushes, and two informational brochures and local newspaper articles to increase public awareness.  In addition, we worked with our local partners to establish the Kenai Peninsula Cooperative Weed Management Area (http://www.kenaiweeds.org/), including the development of an overarching strategic plan and a step-down plan for reed canary grass, to help us manage exotic and invasive plants on lands outside the refuge.  This integrated pest management approach is reasonable precisely because the exotic plant distribution on the Refuge is well understood. 

The effectiveness of invasive plant management can be assessed because exotic plant distributions are surveyed at multiple, hierarchal spatial scales: in situ pre- and post-treatment sampling, 74 permanent plots randomly allocated within anthropogenic strata, and at the 255 permanent plots systematically distributed across KENWR.  In the truest sense of adaptive management, the Refuge is well poised to assess whether or not the war against weed invasion is being won, not simply the battles.    

Last Updated: Aug 14, 2014
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