Visitor trampling impacts on soil and vegetation: the case study of Ramat Hanadiv Park, Israel

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

ABSTRACT

In recent decades, recreational activities in natural open areas have increased substantially. At the same time, stresses imposed upon these areas have increased considerably as a result of a significant reduction in their dimension. These activities strongly affect ecosystem attributes and processes.

This paper intends to review several studies that were conducted in one of the protected areas in Israel, Ramat Hanadiv Park, aiming to (a) quantify the rate of pedestrian trail development and (b) examine the impact of high and low trampling intensities on soil and vegetation properties at different trail sections (center, edge and control – a natural area adjacent to the trail).

The following properties were examined: soil compaction, bulk density, aggregate size distribution, organic matter, moisture, electrical conductivity, pH, sodium and potassium concentrations, vegetation cover, species richness, and composition.

The results indicated that: (a) the number of pedestrian trails increased slightly between the years 1944 and 1990; (b) soil properties, except for soil compaction and aggregate size, were not affected by low trampling intensity. A slight decrease in the soil measured properties was recorded at trail centers. However, under high trampling intensity, a reduction in most soil measured properties was detected on all trail sections; (c) vegetation cover, height and species richness were lower at the trail center under high and low trampling intensities. Herbaceous plant species that are common in compacted soils were found under intense trampling impacts.

The conclusions from the studies conducted at Ramat Hanadiv Park were: (a) there is a positive correlation between trampling intensities and soil and vegetation properties; (b) an increase in trampling intensity is followed by spatial degradation of soil properties beyond the trail's visible boundaries (what we referred as the “control”); and (c) most of the trails in Ramat Hanadiv Park experience low trampling intensities.

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