Vegetation associated with different walking track types in the Kosciuszko alpine area, Australia
Tourism infrastructure such as walking tracks can have negative effects on vegetation including in mountain regions. In the alpine area around continental Australia's highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko (2228 m), there is a range of walking tracks (paved, gravel and raised steel mesh surfaces) in addition to an extensive network of informal/non-hardened tracks. Vegetation characteristics were compared between track types on/under tracks, on the track verge, and in the adjacent native vegetation. For a raised steel mesh walkway there was no difference in vegetation under the walkway, on the verge, and 3 m away. In contrast, for a non-hardened track there was 35% bare ground on the track surface but no other detectable impacts. Gravel and paved tracks had distinct verges largely comprising bare ground and exotic species. For non-hardened tracks there was an estimated 270 m2 of disturbance per km of track. For wide gravel tracks the combined area of bare ground, exotic plants and gravel was estimated as 4290 m2 per km, while for narrow gravel tracks it was estimated as 2940 m2 per km. For paved tracks there was around 2680 m2 per km of damage. In contrast, there was no detectable effect of raised steel mesh walkway on vegetation highlighting some of the benefits of this surface over other track types.
Journal of Environmental Management