Modeling areal measures of campsite impacts on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to enhance ecological sustainability


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Campsite impacts in protected natural areas are most effectively minimized by a containment strategy that focuses use on a limited number of sustainable campsites that spatially concentrate camping activities. This research employs spatial autoregressive (SAR) modeling to evaluate the relative influence of use-related, environmental, and managerial factors on two salient measures of campsite impact. Relational analyses examined numerous field-collected and GIS-derived indicators, including several new indicators calculated using high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) topographic data to evaluate the influence of terrain characteristics on the dependent variables. Chosen variables in the best SAR models explained 35% and 30% of the variation in campsite size and area of vegetation loss on campsites. Results identified three key indicators that managers can manipulate to enhance the sustainability of campsites: campsite type, and terrain characteristics relating to landform slope and topographic roughness. Results support indirect management methods that rely on the location, design, construction, and maintenance of campsites, instead of direct regulations that restrict visitation or visitor freedoms. As visitation pressures continue to increase, this knowledge can be applied to select and promote the use of more ecologically sustainable campsites.



Camping impact, Sustainable camping management, Recreation ecology, Visitor impact management, Appalachian Trail