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    Vegetation is the source of primary production and a fundamental determinant of habitat and wildfire fuel profile characterization. As such, changes in vegetation can have cascading effects through an ecosystem. While individual species can be important indicators of a site’s potential productivity, economic value, and wildlife forage and shelter, changes in the composition and spatial arrangement of vascular plants in a forest may indicate the presence of chronic stresses such as discrete site degradation, climate change, and pollution. These stresses can lead to decline or local eradication of sensitive species, as well as the increase and dominance of opportunistic species, such as many invasive nonnative plants. Changes in species diversity, composition, and the abundance of nonnative species are national concerns, as reflected in international criteria for assessing sustainability of forestry practices (Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2004). Monitoring for change requires establishing an understanding of current conditions that can be reassessed in the future.

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    Schulz, Beth. 2011. Vegetation diversity. In: Conkling, Barbara L., ed. 2011. Forest health monitoring: 2007 national technical report. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-147. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. Pages 65-96. 32 p.

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