Ecosystem Management of Regionally Abundant Invasive Plants in an Era of Global Environmental Change

This project includes research, modeling, and outreach components. Outputs for research include the establishment of experimental plots and preliminary data collection to assess plant competition and grazing impacts with cheatgrass, and the establishment of experimental plots to measure biological impacts of Mecinus janthinus on Dalmatian toadflax. Extensive data were collected on attack rates of three biocontrol insects of diffuse and spotted knapweed, and prelimnary surveys for mite and insect damage to Canada thistle were conducted. Modeling activity involved an analysis of three models that assess grazing productivity of grasslands with respect to invasive plant species abundances. Currently, each model is being calibrated within a computable general equilibrium framework so that we may analyze not just the steady state or long run equilibria, but the transition paths that lead to these different equilibria. Outreach activities included collaboration with a USDA FaST project, collaboration with undergraduate research program on a specific toadflax subproject, mentoring two high school science projects studying herbivory effects on knapweeds, and a middle-school field and laboratory exercise on insects in knapweed and toadflax. This project is being conducted in collaboration with Timothy Seastedt (University of Colorado – Boulder).