Impacts of experimental trampling on tall alpine herbfields and subalpine grasslands in the Australian Alps

  • Pickering C
  • Growcock A
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Abstract

The Australian Alps, which are of high conservation value, are popular summer bushwalking destinations. Experimental trampling trials using a standardized methodology were conducted to determine the resistance and resilience of the two common vegetation types: tall alpine herbfield and subalpine grasslands. Vegetation parameters were measured in lanes subject to control (no trampling), 30, 100, 200, 500 and 700 passes at five sites prior to trampling, immediately post trampling, 2 weeks, 6 weeks and 1 year post trampling. Vegetation height, cover of graminoids and herbs, as well as net species richness all declined with trampling, while litter cover increased. Thresholds for damage varied between the two communities and among the different vegetation parameters. The resistance indices for the two communities (number of passes resulting in 50% reduction in vegetation cover), however, were similar at around 440-450 passes indicating that these two communities are among the most resistant of the 19 alpine-subalpine communities that have been tested around the world, but only of moderate resistance compared to non-alpine communities. The two communities showed limited recovery with damage still evident 1 year post trampling. This indicates that they have only moderate tolerance to damage due to moderate resistance, but low resilience. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Alpine ecosystems
  • Management
  • Recovery
  • Recreation ecology
  • Resistance
  • Tourism impacts

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Authors

  • Catherine Marina Pickering

  • Andrew J. Growcock

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