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Rapid Changes in Plant Communities of Natural Parks due to Recreational Use

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The dynamics of the state of forest communities in sites exposed to recreational effects of different intensities is assessed by testing two assumptions: (1) the taxonomic richness and diversity of communities are lower and the number of synanthropic species is higher in sites exposed to significant recreational effects; (2) the number and proportion of synanthropic species continue to increase with continued recreational use. The studies were carried out from 2012 to 2019 in four specially protected areas in the Middle Urals (Russia). Monitoring was carried out in two plots in each area: one of them was exposed to heavy recreational impacts and the other was a control one. It is revealed that the average number of species is the same in communities from the recreational plots and from the control ones; however, the number and proportion of synanthropic species is higher and that of indigenous ones is lower under intensive recreation conditions. The proportion of synanthropic species significantly increased in communities from highly visited and, most importantly, rarely visited plots over 7 years. Therefore, the transformation of the species composition of plant communities in recreational nature reserves has been established not only in plots with intensive recreational impacts but also in rarely visited plots. This is a new empirical fact that indicates the possibility of rapid synanthropization of forest vegetation in these recreationally used protected areas.

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The authors are grateful to Cand. Sci. (Biol.) O.V. Erokhina and Cand. Sci. (Biol.) I.A. Kuznetsova (Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences) for assistance in carrying out field studies.


This study was performed under the State Assignment of the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences (AAAA-A19-119031890084-6); the generalizing analysis was carried out as part of the project of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, no. 20-44-660013.

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Correspondence to L. A. Pustovalova or D. V. Veselkin.

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Translated by D. Zabolotny

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Pustovalova, L.A., Veselkin, D.V. Rapid Changes in Plant Communities of Natural Parks due to Recreational Use. Russ J Ecol 51, 399–407 (2020).

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