Scholarly Works, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

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Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
  • The influence of layout on Appalachian Trail soil loss, widening, and muddiness: Implications for sustainable trail design and management
    Meadema, Fletcher P.; Marion, Jeffrey L.; Arredondo, Johanna R.; Wimpey, Jeremy F. (2020-03-01)
    This research investigates the influence of layout and design on the severity of trail degradation. Previous trail studies have been restricted by relatively small study areas which provide a limited range of environmental conditions and therefore produce findings with limited applicability; this research improves on this limitation by analyzing a representative sample of the Appalachian Trail with significant topographical, ecological, use-related, and managerial diversity. Many trail science studies have also focused on a singular form of trail degradation, whereas this study investigates all three core types of trail impact: trail soil loss, widening and muddiness. Relational analyses with all three indicators provide a more cohesive understanding of trail impact and reveal interrelationships between trail degradation processes. ANOVA testing of the mean values for these trail impact indicators across categories of influential independent factors confirms and refines the relevance of core trail design principles, specifically the sustainability advantages of trails with low grades and side-hill alignments. Findings also reveal and clarify the importance of landform grade in determining the susceptibility of trails to degradation and the influence of routing decisions; these relationships have received relatively little attention in the literature. The results also reveal several methodological considerations for trail alignment metrics and trail impact indicators.
  • Application of airborne LiDAR and GIS in modeling trail erosion along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, USA
    Eagleston, Holly A.; Marion, Jeffrey L. (2020-06)
    Recreational activities can negatively affect protected area landscapes and resources and soil erosion is frequently cited as the most significant long-term impact to recreational trails. This study applied extensive multiple regression modeling of trail soil loss to identify influential factors that managers can manipulate to improve the sustainability of trail design and management. Field measurements assessed soil loss as the mean vertical depth along 135 trail transects across the Appalachian Trail sampled along three 5 km trail segments in New Hampshire's White Mountains National Forest, chosen due to its exceptionally high use and impact. GIS and LiDAR data were used to create many new variables reflecting terrain characteristics that were expected to influence trail erosion and improve predictive models of trail system soil loss. A variety of terrain and hydrology characteristics were applied to model trail soil loss at three spatial scales: transect, trail corridor, and watershed. The model for each spatial scale and a combined model are presented. The adjusted R-2 explaining variation in soil loss is 0.57 using variables from all spatial scales, improving on predictive modeling from earlier studies. Environmental and trail design factors such as slope and watershed flow length were found to be significantly correlated to soil loss and have implications for improved sustainable trail design and management.
  • Effectiveness of a confinement strategy for reducing campsite impacts in Shenandoah National Park
    Reid, Scott Edmonds; Marion, Jeffrey L. (Cambridge University Press, 2004-12)
    The expansion and proliferation of backcountry campsites is a persistent problem in many parks and protected areas. Shenandoah National Park (SNP) has one of the highest backcountry overnight use densities in the USA national parks system. SNP managers implemented a multi-option backcountry camping policy in 2000 that included camping containment with established campsites. These actions were intended to reduce the number of campsites and the area of camping disturbance at each site. This paper describes a longitudinal adaptive management assessment of the new campsite policies, applying quantitative measures of campsite conditions to evaluate the efficacy of management interventions. Physical campsite measurements combined with qualitative visitor interviews indicated SNP had successfully reduced the number of campsites and aggregate measures of camping-related disturbance in the Park, while minimizing the use of regulations, site facilities and staff resources. Implications for managers of other protected areas are that an established site camping policy can minimize camping disturbance, including the number and size of campsites, provided managers can sustain rehabilitation efforts to close and restore unneeded campsites. Experiential attributes, such as the potential for solitude, can also be manipulated through control over the selection of established campsites. Integrating resource and social science methods also provided a more holistic perspective on management policy assessments. Adaptive management research provided a timely evaluation of management success while facilitating effective modifications in response to unforeseen challenges. Conclusions regarding the effectiveness of a visitor impact containment strategy involving an established site camping option are offered.
  • Assessing trail conditions in protected areas: application of a problem-assessment method in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA
    Leung, Y. F.; Marion, Jeffrey L. (Cambridge University Press, 1999-12)
    The degradation of trail resources associated with expanding recreation and tourism visitation is a growing management problem in protected areas worldwide. In order to make judicious trail and visitor management decisions, protected area managers need objective and timely information on trail resource conditions. This paper introduces a trail survey method that efficiently characterizes the location and lineal extent of common trail problems. The method was applied to a large sample of trails within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a high-use protected area in the USA. The Trail Problem-Assessment Method (TPAM) employs a continuous search for multiple indicators of pre-defined tread problems, yielding census data documenting the location, occurrence and extent of each problem. The present application employed 23 different indicators in three categories to gather inventory, resource condition, and design and maintenance data of each survey ed trail. Seventy-two backcountry hiking trails (528 km), or 35% of the Park's total trail length, were surveyed. Soil erosion and wet soil were found to be the two most common impacts on a lineal extent basis. Trails with serious tread problems were well distributed throughout the Park, although trails with wet muddy treads tended to be concentrated in areas where horse use was high. The effectiveness of maintenance features installed to divert water from trail treads was also evaluated. Water bars were found to be more effective than drainage dips. The TPAM was able to provide Park managers with objective and quantitative information for use in trail planning, management and maintenance decisions, and is applicable to other protected areas elsewhere with different environmental and impact characteristics.
  • Identifying and assessing ecotourism visitor impacts at eight protected areas in Costa Rica and Belize
    Farrell, T. A.; Marion, Jeffrey L. (Cambridge University Press, 2001-09)
    Protected area visitation is an important component of ecotourism, and as such, must be sustainable. However, protected area visitation may degrade natural resources, particularly in areas of concentrated visitor activities like trails and recreation sites. This is an important concern in ecotourism destinations such as Belize and Costa Rica, because they actively promote ecotourism and emphasize the pristine qualities of their natural resources. Research on visitor impacts to protected areas has many potential applications in protected area management, though it has not been widely applied in Central and South America. This study targeted this deficiency through manager interviews and evaluations of alternative impact assessment procedures at eight protected areas in Belize and Costa Rica. Impact assessment procedures included qualitative condition class systems, ratings systems, and measurement-based systems applied to trails and recreation sites. The resulting data characterize manager perceptions of impact problems, document trail and recreation site impacts, and provide examples of inexpensive, efficient and effective rapid impact assessment procedures. Interview subjects reported a variety of impacts affecting trails, recreation sites, wildlife, water, attraction features and other resources. Standardized assessment procedures were developed and applied to record trail and recreation site impacts. Impacts affecting the study areas included trail proliferation, erosion and widening, muddiness on trails, vegetation cover loss, soil and root exposure, and tree damage on recreation sites. The findings also illustrate the types of assessment data yielded by several alternative methods and demonstrate their utility to protected area managers. The need for additional rapid assessment procedures for wildlife, water, attraction feature and other resource impacts was also identified.