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CPNPP Research Program

CPNPP has a growing research program that includes US Geologic Survey and US Forest Service researchers. Led by Dr. Troy Wood at the USGS Colorado Plateau Research Station in Flagstaff, the program is currently focused on two areas: 1) marker-based population genetic studies; and 2) common garden studies. 

CPNPP Native Plant Database

The Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program, through its partnership with the US Geologic Survey, has developed a database of research that is relevant to Colorado Plateau native plant materials and restoration. This is housed on the and is designed to provide information of value to land managers, researchers, and restoration practitioners.  One can browse the database by viewing mapped project locations or by entering keywords, or through the use of simple and advanced search options.  

Population Genetic Studies 

USGS and partners are currently conducting population genetic studies on four Colorado Plateau species. In cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS), the group is using genetic markers to evaluate the spatial scale of genetic differentiation in Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides), sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus), and smallflower globemallow (Sphaeralcea parvifolia) collected from locations across Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and adjacent BLM lands in southeastern Utah. The NPS is ultimately interested in using these species to restore degraded grasslands within the parks.

In a larger-scale study, the USGS is genotyping populations of blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) drawn from across the Colorado Plateau. Sampling is focused to evaluate the impact of the precipitation timing and elevation, both of which vary strongly across the Plateau. In addition, population sampling of the forbs scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregate) and showy goldeneye (Heliomeris multiflora) is underway.

©Al Schneider - Southwest Colorado Wildflowers
©Al Schneider. Southwest Colorado Wildflowers. United States

Common Garden Studies

Common garden studies are being conducted on six grasses––Achnatherum hymenoides, Koeleria macrantha, Poa fendleriana, Hesperostipa comata, Poa secunda, and Elymus elymoides––by US Forest Service ecologist, Kelly Memmott. Study sites are located on the Ashley, Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-LaSal National Forests in Utah and seed source materials represent a broad area of the northern portion of the Colorado Plateau. 

Photo: Dr. Troy Wood, USGS Colorado Plateau Research Station
Photo: Dr. Troy Wood, USGS Colorado Plateau Research Station

This effort is measuring survival, biomass, height, stature, and seed production of these species and the data will be used to identify the most broadly adapted populations, which will serve as seed sources for agronomic increase. 

In the future, the US Forest Service will work on higher elevation Colorado Plateau species of importance to their agency, such as bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus), and Utah sweetvetch (Hedysarum boreale).

USGS is currently developing greenhouse common garden studies that focus on the species being studied with genetic markers (see above). 

Results of these studies will be available on this web site in the future. 


The BLM established a partnership with the University of Utah, Rio Mesa Center along the Dolores River northeast of Moab, Utah.   The Rio Mesa Center is in the process of developing a native plant demonstration garden on-site that will be used to increase awareness of the need for, and use of locally-adapted native plant materials in the restoration of resilient ecosystems on the Colorado Plateau.  The garden is part of a larger expansion of the research program at Rio Mesa and the Development of new research facilities on site.

University of Utah - Rio Mesa Center

Research Priorities: 2013 and Beyond

Dr. Wood is currently developing a research strategy paper for the CPNPP program. We will continue to work with partners on developing a broad list of potential research opportunities. 

Our research program is focused on supporting other ongoing agency priorities including, but not limited to:

  • Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • National Landscape Conservation System
  • Healthy Lands Initiative
  • Colorado Plateau Rapid Ecoregional Assessment
  • National Greater Sage Grouse Planning Strategy