Impacts of Experimentally Applied Mountain Biking and Hiking on Vegetation and Soil of a Deciduous Forest
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Many recent trail degradation problems have been attributed to mountain biking because of its alleged capacity to do more damage than other activities, particularly hiking. This study compared the effects of experimentally applied mountain biking and hiking on the understory vegetation and soil of a deciduous forest. Five different intensities of biking and hiking (i.e., 0, 25, 75, 200 and 500 passes) were applied to 4-m-long × 1-m-wide lanes in Boyne Valley Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. Measurements of plant stem density, species richness, and soil exposure were made before treatment, two weeks after treatment, and again one year after treatment. Biking and hiking generally had similar effects on vegetation and soil. Two weeks after treatment, stem density and species richness were reduced by up to 100% of pretreatment values. In addition, the amount of soil exposed increased by up to 54%. One year later, these treatment effects were no longer detectable. These results indicate that at a similar intensity of activity, the short-term impacts of mountain biking and hiking may not differ greatly in the undisturbed area of a deciduous forest habitat. The immediate impacts of both activities can be severe but rapid recovery should be expected when the activities are not allowed to continue. Implications of these results for trail recreation are discussed.
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