Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rock Climbing Harms Cliff Ecosystems, Study Finds

Date:
April 3, 2002
Source:
Society For Conservation Biology
Summary:
While it stands to reason that rock climbers might harm habitats such as the ancient, stunted forests that grow on cliffs around the world, there has been little unambiguous evidence that this is so. Now the first study to isolate rock climbing from other factors confirms that the sport damages cliff ecosystems.

While it stands to reason that rock climbers might harm habitats such as the ancient, stunted forests that grow on cliffs around the world, there has been little unambiguous evidence that this is so. Now the first study to isolate rock climbing from other factors confirms that the sport damages cliff ecosystems. "Our work clearly shows that rock outcrop ecosystems suffer dramatically when exposed to recreational rock climbing," says Douglas Larson of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. This work is presented in the April issue of Conservation Biology by Larson and Michele McMillan, who is also of the University of Guelph.

The popularity of rock climbing has soared in North America over the last 20 years, disturbing areas that had been untouched for ages. However, previous studies on the ecological effects of rock climbing have been contradictory.

McMillan and Larson studied the ecological effects of rock climbing on vegetation (vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens) on the heavily-climbed limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment, which is near Toronto in southern Ontario. These cliffs have the most ancient forest east of the Rocky Mountains, with eastern white cedars that are more than 1,000 years old. The researchers compared the vegetation on three parts -- the top edge (plateau), the middle (cliff face) and the base (talus) -- of climbed and unclimbed cliffs.

The researchers found that rock climbing greatly decreases the diversity of vegetation on cliffs. Notably, climbed faces had only 4% as many vascular plant species as those that were unclimbed. Moreover, the diversity of bryophytes and lichens in climbed areas were roughly 30 and 40% of that in climbed areas, respectively.

Rock climbing also decreases the cover of vegetation on cliffs. For vascular plants, the cover on climbed plateau and talus was roughly 60% of that on unclimbed areas. For bryophytes, the cover on climbed plateau and talus was about a fifth of that on unclimbed areas. While climbing did not affect the extent of lichen cover, it did change the types of species that grow on cliffs. Delicate lichen species were replaced by tough ones: in unclimbed areas the most common lichens are so fragile that they crumble to the touch, while in climbed areas the most common lichens are so sturdy that they can even withstand rubbing.

McMillan and Larson also found that in climbed areas, the proportion of non-native plants was three times higher (81 vs. 27%). Rock climbing reduces plant density, thus increasing the number of sites where non-native plants can grow. Furthermore, rock climbers can introduce seeds and living pieces of non-native plants via their shoes, clothing and equipment.

To help protect cliff ecosystems, McMillan and Larson recommend banning new climbing routes in protected areas along the Niagara Escarpment, and explaining why to rock climbing associations and schools. "Recreationists are far more likely to abide by management plans when they are aware of the ecological rationale behind the restrictions," say the researchers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society For Conservation Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society For Conservation Biology. "Rock Climbing Harms Cliff Ecosystems, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020402072635.htm>.
Society For Conservation Biology. (2002, April 3). Rock Climbing Harms Cliff Ecosystems, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020402072635.htm
Society For Conservation Biology. "Rock Climbing Harms Cliff Ecosystems, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020402072635.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins