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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

Quantifying the effects of trampling and habitat edges on forest understory vegetation - A field experiment

Hamberg, Leena; Malmivaara-Lamsa, Minna; Lehvavirta, Susanna; O'Hara, Robert B.; Kotze, D. Johan


We investigated the effects of human trampling on boreal forest understory vegetation on, and off paths from suburban forest edges towards the interiors and on the likelihood of trampling-aided dispersal into the forests for three years by carrying out a trampling experiment. We showed that the vegetation was highly sensitive to trampling. Even low levels of trampling considerably decreased covers of the most abundant species on the paths. Cover decreased between 10 and 30% on paths which had been trampled 35 times, and at least by 50% on those trampled 70-270 times. On-path vegetation cover decreased similarly at forest edges and in the interiors. However, some open habitat plant species that occurred outside the forest patches and at forest edges dispersed into the forests, possibly through the action of trampling. A higher cover percentage of an open habitat species at the forest edge line increased its probability to disperse into the forest interior. The vegetation community on, next to, and away from lightly trampled paths remained the same throughout the trampling experiment. For heavily trampled paths, the community changed drastically on the paths, but stayed relatively similar next to and away from the paths. As boreal vegetation is highly sensitive to the effects of trampling, overall ease of access throughout the forest floor should be restricted to avoid the excessive creation of spontaneous paths. To minimize the effects of trampling, recreational use could be guided to the maintained path network in heavily used areas. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Recreation; Wear; Plant dispersal; Urban forests; Urban woodlands

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management
2010, Volume: 91, number: 9, pages: 1811-1820

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

    Publication Identifiers


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