Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climbers leave rare plants' genetic variation on the rocks

Date:
May 4, 2011
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Rock climbers are having a negative impact on rare cliff-dwelling plants, ecologists have found. In areas popular with climbers, conservation management plans should be drawn up so that some cliffs are protected from climbers, experts urge.

Rock climbers are having a negative impact on rare cliff-dwelling plants, ecologists have found. Writing in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology they say that in areas popular with climbers, conservation management plans should be drawn up so that some cliffs are protected from climbers.

The Northern Franconian Jura and the Swabian Alb are two of Germany's most important climbing areas but also the last European stronghold of the rare yellow whitlowgrass (Draba azoides) -- a small plant that lives on limestone cliffs where it forms cushion-like rosettes.

To find out how climbing in the area was affecting the plant, Frank Vogler and Christoph Reisch of the University of Regensburg compared the number and distribution of D. azoides on eight cliffs that had been climbed for at least the past 50 years with eight pristine, unclimbed cliffs of similar size and aspect. They also tested the plants' DNA to find out how climbers affected its genetic variation.

They found that on climbed cliffs, the plants were smaller and fewer in number on cliff faces but more frequent on the scree -- the broken rock fragments at the base of the cliffs.

According to Dr Reisch: "Climbing adversely affects these plants in a direct way. Abrasion by climbing ropes and using cracks and ledges as hand and footholds obviously lead to a decline in the species' abundance."

Genetic fingerprinting showed that compared with climbed cliffs, there were greater genetic differences between plants living at different heights on the pristine cliffs, meaning that by displacing plants the climbers are also moving their genes down the cliff. These genetic changes could, in the long-term, affect the plants' fitness to survive in an environment it has spent thousands of years adapting to.

"Seed dispersal is presumably enhanced by rock climbers. But climbers also remove and drop individual plants from cliff faces, causing a downward shift in population structure. This shift reduces the genetic differences between the plant populations living at different heights on the cliff," says Dr Reisch.

Because of their inaccessibility, cliffs are among the few ecosystems to be relatively unaffected by humans over the last centuries. Cliffs harbour a multitude of rare and endangered plant species and make a major contribution to regional biodiversity, so more effort needs to be made to conserve them.

"In mountain regions popular with climbers, conservation management plans should always ensure that some cliffs are out-of-bounds to climbers so that the native vegetation is protected," he concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Frank Vogler, Christoph Reisch. Genetic variation on the rocks - the impact of climbing on the population ecology of a typical cliff plant. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.01992.x

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Climbers leave rare plants' genetic variation on the rocks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110503203822.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2011, May 4). Climbers leave rare plants' genetic variation on the rocks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110503203822.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Climbers leave rare plants' genetic variation on the rocks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110503203822.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
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