Scale-dependent inconsistencies in the effects of trampling on a forest understory community

Research paper by K. C. Taylor, R. J. Reader, D. W. Larson

Indexed on: 01 Mar '93Published on: 01 Mar '93Published in: Environmental Management


The response of forest understory vegetation to trampling applied at different temporal and spatial scales was determined in a cliff-edge forest in Ontario, Canada. Three frequencies (0, 50, 500 passes per year) of short-term trampling (one year) were applied to plots previously undisturbed. Existing trails that had received three frequencies (approx. 100, 500, 25,000 passes per year) of long-term trampling (18 years) were also studied. Community composition, species richness, and individual species frequency were recorded in plots within 4 m and (or) 1 m of the patch centerline. The quantitative and qualitative form of plant response to increased trampling was compared for short-term and long-term treatments, both within 4 m and within 1 m of the path centerline, to judge the consistency of trampling effects at different temporal and spatial scales.As trampling frequency increased, community composition changed progressively, but consistently, in plots both within 4 m and 1 m of the path centerline. Species richness was less affected by trampling and only decreased within 1 m of the path centerline at the highest level of trampling (25,000 passes per season for 18 years). Effects of trampling on individual species frequency were much less consistent at different temporal and spatial scales of trampling. The scale-dependence results suggest that field workers and resource managers both should try explicitly to include and define multiple scale components when trying to ascertain the response of vegetation to human disturbance factors.