Modeling Areal Measures of Campsite Impacts on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, USA Using Airborne LiDAR and Field Collected Data

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Virginia Tech


Recent research has emphasized the need to professionally manage campsites for long-term use, particularly in light of rising visitation to natural protected areas worldwide. Camping regulations vary considerably along the length of any long-distance trail due to the many land types and management agencies involved. Large proportions of long-distance trails have at-large camping policies, resulting in camping problems associated with visitor-chosen or developed campsites. Several long-term monitoring studies in areas with at-large camping policies indicate the expansion and proliferation of individual campsites, and growth of overall camping related impacts, to be a substantial managerial concern.

This research evaluates the relative influence of environmental and topographic factors, both collected in the field and modeled in GIS using high-resolution topography (LiDAR) data, on areal measures of campsite impact utilizing Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO) penalized regression for factor selection and Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) for regressions. Chosen variables in regressions explained 64% of the variation in campsite size and 61% of the variation in the area of vegetation loss on a campsite. Results indicate four variables managers can utilize to enhance the sustainability of campsites: use level, overnight site type, and terrain characteristics relating to slope and topographic roughness. Results support indirect management methods that rely on the design and location of campsites and trails and not the effectiveness of enforcement or restricting visitor freedom. In the face of rising use, techniques and concepts presented aid in identifying or creating ecologically sustainable campsites.



Recreation Ecology, Sustainable Recreation Management, Campsite Management, Spatial Analysis, Appalachian Trail, Long-distance Trail