Trail degradation in Cape Breton Highlands National Park: An ecological approach to vegetation restoration

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Madeline Clarke

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Ecotourism and hiking trails have become increasingly popular, but trails can lead to damage to surrounding vegetation, substrate compaction and erosion. Failure of vegetation recovery and further degradation has been observed at two closed sections of hiking trails in Cape Breton Highlands National Park (Skyline and Mica Hill). In the first year (Summer 2018) trail conditions, biotic factors, and abiotic factors were assessed in paired plots on the degraded trail and in adjacent undamaged vegetation. Characteristics of trail conditions were identified as lower vascular plant cover, and higher daily surface temperatures, compaction and moisture, as well as reduced substrate nutrients and higher pH levels. Additionally, there was no seed bank present on closed trails at Skyline, and while there was some evidence of a viable seed bank at Mica Hill, the seed bank species were not present in surrounding reference vegetation. In the second year, five different treatment types were implemented on closed sections of the Skyline trail and monitored for their effectiveness: erosion control mats were combined topsoil addition with additional direct seeding and transplanting treatments. While directly transplanted species were able to establish on the closed trails, the addition of topsoil improved cover and quality of vegetation. Both seeding and transplanting of native species also appeared to improve vegetation and quality when compared to controls. This study furthers our understanding of interactions between barrens species and provides the basis for a long-term restoration study where further monitoring throughout multiple growing seasons can further elucidate or modify these findings.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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