Recreational fishers contribute to path formation in subalpine vegetation
Adedokun, BC and Kirkpatrick, JB and McHenry, MT, Recreational fishers contribute to path formation in subalpine vegetation, Ecological Management & Restoration, 23, (1) pp. 74-80. ISSN 1839-3330 (2021) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2021 Ecological Society of Australia and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.
The role of recreational fishers forming paths (routes of concentrated passage characterised by short vegetation or ground indentation) as they gain access to wilderness waterbodies has not been well documented in Australia. Recreational use for trout and tournament fly fishing has increased in the Central Plateau of Tasmania; therefore, it is important to determine the human contribution to path formation and its potential consequences for biodiversity conservation in this area of high conservation value. We predicted that paths parallel to waterbodies experienced more human traffic than orthogonal paths. Across 36 sites at different distances from roads, a parallel and orthogonal path to lakeshore were sampled using eight, 1 × 1 m quadrats randomly located along each path within a 10 × 10-m plot. Recorded for each quadrat were the path widths, height difference between centre of paths and adjacent vegetation (path depth), vegetation types on and adjacent to paths, Bennetts Wallaby (Notamacropus rufogriseus) and Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) faecal numbers. General linear models indicated that path width was greater on parallel than orthogonal paths and declined with distance from roads. Path depth, however, was not affected by distance from roads but was shallower than orthogonal paths. Separate models used to test the potential effects of edge vegetation type, or the covariates Wallaby and Wombat scats did not have significant effects on-path variables. Paths encircling or orthogonal to Central Plateau lakes appear different floristically to adjacent vegetation communities, nonetheless. Heath and tussock grassland were largely absent from paths, whereas grassland and herbfield communities were infrequently observed off paths. Herbfield and grassland are rarer communities than heath and tussock grassland, which, in the context of a lack of exposure to erosion, suggests a conservation benefit of paths at present usage levels. The human contribution to parallel path conditions is likely to be high, given the results from the study, so monitoring of change is desirable, especially if predicted increasing human activity eventuates in this area.