Preliminary Investigation of Plant Communities within Camassia quamash Habitats on the Flathead Indian Reservation

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Minerva Ringland, Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States and Brandon Diller, Salish Kootenai College, Natural Resources, Pablo, MT, United States
Wetland destruction and disruption across the country has resulted in loss of habitat and diversity, leading to major ecosystem change. This study considers Camassia quamash (blue camas) as an indicator of wetland health and, in light of recent decrease in camas populations, as the subject species for a reintroduction project due to the plant’s cultural significance. The bulb from which camas grows was a major subsistence commodity for tribes living in the Pacific Northwest and was once the second most-traded item in the region after salmon. Conservation management practices recommend detailed analysis of the target species’ habitat in order to determine characteristics necessary for reestablishment. It was hypothesized that certain species, specifically exotic or invasive plants, may present deleterious competition for blue camas. Plant community dynamics associated with camas populations were studied using plot and transect sampling to measure camas density and species coverage. Statistical analysis was used to calculate camas density, frequency, site diversity, and correlation of each plant species with camas. One study site at Evaro, MT was found to have the highest level of plant diversity and highest abundance of camas. However, of the 83 species identified, none were found to have significant positive or negative correlation with camas prevalence, and no data supported the hypothesis of exotic or invasive competition.