An iterative and targeted sampling design informed by habitat suitability models for detecting focal plant species over extensive areas

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 14;9(7):e101196. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101196. eCollection 2014.


Prioritizing areas for management of non-native invasive plants is critical, as invasive plants can negatively impact plant community structure. Extensive and multi-jurisdictional inventories are essential to prioritize actions aimed at mitigating the impact of invasions and changes in disturbance regimes. However, previous work devoted little effort to devising sampling methods sufficient to assess the scope of multi-jurisdictional invasion over extensive areas. Here we describe a large-scale sampling design that used species occurrence data, habitat suitability models, and iterative and targeted sampling efforts to sample five species and satisfy two key management objectives: 1) detecting non-native invasive plants across previously unsampled gradients, and 2) characterizing the distribution of non-native invasive plants at landscape to regional scales. Habitat suitability models of five species were based on occurrence records and predictor variables derived from topography, precipitation, and remotely sensed data. We stratified and established field sampling locations according to predicted habitat suitability and phenological, substrate, and logistical constraints. Across previously unvisited areas, we detected at least one of our focal species on 77% of plots. In turn, we used detections from 2011 to improve habitat suitability models and sampling efforts in 2012, as well as additional spatial constraints to increase detections. These modifications resulted in a 96% detection rate at plots. The range of habitat suitability values that identified highly and less suitable habitats and their environmental conditions corresponded to field detections with mixed levels of agreement. Our study demonstrated that an iterative and targeted sampling framework can address sampling bias, reduce time costs, and increase detections. Other studies can extend the sampling framework to develop methods in other ecosystems to provide detection data. The sampling methods implemented here provide a meaningful tool when understanding the potential distribution and habitat of species over multi-jurisdictional and extensive areas is needed for achieving management objectives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Introduced Species*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Plants

Grant support

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, through the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP; project RC-1722), and by the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP; project ID 10-1-04-7). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.