Recreational trail impacts on the plant communities of Castle and Castle Wildland Provincial Parks in southern Alberta

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Chisholm, Trinitas
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Biological Sciences
I measured the effect of recreational trails on plant species richness, community composition, and the presence of exotic and rare species in the Castle Provincial Parks of Alberta, Canada, by surveying 142 transects adjacent to or far from trails. I also characterized the habitat of species from the rare genus Botrychium Swartz and tested a species distribution model (SDM) to identify suitable Botrychium habitat. Plant communities near trails had higher species richness, shifts in composition, and greater occurrence of exotic plant species. These effects extended farther from off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails than from footpaths, but only in mixed/broadleaf and shrubland vegetation. The SDM was not a strong predictor of Botrychium presence, but I found Botrychium in 29% of surveyed sites. To minimize trail effects such as colonization by exotic species, managers should prioritize closing trails to OHVs or limiting OHV traffic, particularly in mixed/broadleaf and shrubland vegetation.
Recreational trails , Plant species richness , Trail effects , Special distribution model , Castle Provincial Parks