UKC

/ Impacts of climbing on Mediterranean cliff vegetation

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Doug on 08 Jan 2018
Skimming through recent publications possibly relevant to my work when I found a paper studying the impact of climbing on vegetation at Chulilla (Spain) which might be of interest. Yet to read it carefully but it seems they found limited negative impacts.
March-Salas et al (2018) . An innovative vegetation survey design in Mediterranean cliffs shows evidence of higher tolerance of specialized rock plants to rock climbing activity. Appl Veg Sci. 2018;00:1–9.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/avsc.12355/full

(I think its open access)
mbh - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Doug:
> (I think its open access)

Doesn't seem to be, in its entirety, but here is what I was allowed to see:

Abstract

Questions,
Is rock climbing pressure, together with microtopographic conditions, disturbing cliff plant cover and composition? What are the climbing impacts on rock specialist and non-specialist species? Can a case-control approach, not previously implemented in cliff environments, offer additional value for actual and long-term ecological research?

Location
Chulilla, Levante coast, Spain.

Methods
We surveyed in situ nine rock climbing routes in order to examine differences in plant species richness and vegetation cover between unclimbed and climbed transects. To evaluate the effect of rock climbing on vegetation, we implemented a case-control methodology using the two zones immediately adjacent to common climbing routes as control points (i.e. unclimbed transects). Three quadrats of 3 m × 3 m were established at different cliff heights. All identified species were categorized as either specialized rock species or non-specialized rock species based on their habitat preferences from literature. Non-specialized rock species were further differentiated as either moderately associated with rocky environments or strict generalists. The rock climbing impact on each group of species was analysed using LMM.

Results
Our results provide evidence of the effects of rock climbing on a Mediterranean cliff, which has received little attention so far. Significantly fewer generalist species were present on climbed compared to unclimbed transects, while specialized and moderately specialized rock species were not significantly affected by rock climbing intensity. Furthermore, while rock-specific and moderately specialized species could cope with microsite heterogeneity, areas with fewer cracks had significantly negative effects on generalist species.

Conclusions
Moderate rock climbing activity on cliff environments might not reduce the presence of specialized rock-dwelling species; however, this activity inherently impacts the biodiversity of cliff ecosystems due to its large effect on generalist species. We recommend that future conservation studies account for the degree of species dependence on rocky habitats to better understand rock-climbing impacts in these singular ecosystems. According to our experience, the implementation of an adjacent case-control survey design for monitoring cliff vegetation can help improve and unify methodology for such studies, as this is still an underdeveloped field.
Post edited at 14:53
Mick Ward - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to mbh:

Anybody able to translate this into plain English?

Mick
JLS on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Doug:

I fear it is only a matter of time before the impact of rock climbing on the environment is deemed antisocial and simply walking on grass, the same, some time later. In the future, I predict, you will need an expensive permit to go outdoors. Alternatively, we could initiate a nuclear apocalypse, resulting in a complete break down in society and anarchic freedom. Tough decision...
kamala - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Mick Ward:

Plants specialised to a rock environment don't suffer much from being on a climbing route. This sounds like good news for alpines and other rock plants.
Plants that will live in a range of environments but can also survive on rock, don't survive well on climbing routes.

Because the generalists don't do as well on climbed as unclimbed rock, the range of species on climbing routes is smaller than on untouched crags - i.e. climbing reduces biodiversity.

And then some recommendations that further study is needed and that the plants' degree of specialisation should be considered in studies.

The actual experts on UKC will be along in a while to translate properly, I'm sure!
Doug on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to kamala:

seems a reasonable summary, with 'further research is needed' the most important (for the authors). The sample size seems pretty small & I would be reluctant to extrapolate very far from this study alone
jon on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Doug:

I wonder if they're aware of the meaning of 'gardening' in climbing terms?
Doug on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to jon:

They do write "To free up cracks for hand- and footholds, climbers often remove some plants present along the rock-climbing route. This can reduce the substrate present within these cracks, and alter the seed bank. " which is part of gardening. I don't know the cliff - has there been the sort of massive gardening as sometimes found in the UK (eg widespread removal of ivy) ?
baron - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Doug:

Sounds like a bunch of students who've combined a field trip/study and their interest in climbing, possibly funded by the university.
Jon Read - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to baron:

What?? Surely they would stick a badly designed surveymonkey qusetionnaire on here first?

According to the paper, the field work was all done by one Miguel Moreno Moya, who appears to have written this article here: http://www.salyroca.es/articulo/roca/escalando-habitat-sensible/20171120101250003938.html

(google translate version here: https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?sl=es&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8... )

He concludes: "We are the only group that frequents this ecosystem and we can alter it, so it is up to us to conserve its fauna and flora. Let's demonstrate that the practice of climbing is totally compatible with the conservation of nature."
Hear hear.
jon on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Doug:

I do know that pulling stuff out of pockets and cracks around here doesn't deter it in the slightest. It's normally back and bigger/greener/often pricklier... in just weeks!
Mick Ward - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to kamala:

That's great. Many thanks indeed.

'What can be said at all can be said clearly.' (Wittgenstein)

Mick

kamala - on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Doug:

Good to know I've read it right, thanks.
There does seem to be plenty of scope for further study. Among other things I was wondering whether reducing competition from the generalists might allow the rock specialists to flourish more than they might otherwise...Or does each need something that the other provides?
But I'm no botanist so perhaps those are daft questions.

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