Climbers Leave Rare Plants' Genetic Variation on the Rocks

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healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Topic Author's Original Post - May 4, 2011 - 01:49am PT
ScienceDaily (May 3, 2011) — 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.

...

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110503203822.htm

Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 4, 2011 - 01:53am PT
This has also been an issue in Ontario on the Niagara Escarpement, where in some locations climbing was affecting small but very old trees. Hopefully someone from back east can add to this.
Frogjamm

Trad climber
San Francisco
May 4, 2011 - 03:12am PT
I've heard that when boulderers brush moss of a boulder it can negatively affect the moss. And when hikers create trails they impact the vegetation.

Seriously, I'm all for preserving biodiversity, but this sounds like
a) nitpicking
and
b) a pretty damn uninteresting study.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 4, 2011 - 08:55am PT
The proscription to leave some cliffs alone as part of a plan sounds reasonable.

DMT
couchmaster

climber
pdx
May 4, 2011 - 10:17am PT
There is a semi remote cliff near here that has the center routes all closed for some plants that grow out of the cracks.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 4, 2011 - 10:30am PT
Did you have a point, fortmental?

DMT
seth kovar

climber
Reno, NV
May 4, 2011 - 10:54am PT
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Does he ever?
Pate

Trad climber
May 4, 2011 - 11:01am PT
is this a surprise? we're talking about a group of people who call removing flora/fauna from a route "cleaning".

i've always though that if a crack was dirty it meant leave it alone.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 4, 2011 - 11:51am PT
here is a BES press release on the article healyje linked above:
http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/about_bes/press/press_releases/climbing.php

Tami

Social climber
Canada
May 4, 2011 - 01:09pm PT
In Squamish the topic of "cleaning routes" has been an issue for 30 years. Under discussion has been to what extent do routes need to be "cleaned" in order to be climbed. ( in addition to the practices of trundling rocks ....yeah )

It's not a straight forward conversation but one that should be goverened by common sense.

As should ANY human invasion to ANY place. Humans and rats share the distinction of overrunning their environment to the detriment of the species. How is this "intelligent"?

But back to common sense. You can't legislate against stupidity and the problem with most legislation is it's driven by a need for making money somewhere.

So use common sense & act in the best interest of where you are now & where you are going. Whether it's driving the F-150 to the gym, logging a crag to give it sun, using a snowmobile to access the b/c or shitting on a wall.

Give it up for common sense !!!! Let's open a big can of common sense and share the contents!!!! Common Sense Nation!!!! Corey, Trevor, COMMON SENSE, LETS GO!!!!!!!!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 4, 2011 - 01:12pm PT
But back to common sense. You can't legislate against stupidity and the problem with most legislation is it's driven by a need for making money somewhere.

I think raptor protections have made great sense and I don't see much of a money trail. As with raptors the danger of this is wholesale cliff closers on the probability a plant or animal lives there. I believe our SoCal relatives deal with this down San Diego way.

DMT
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 4, 2011 - 05:23pm PT
here is the summary from the article:

1. Rock climbing enjoys enormous popularity world-wide. As a consequence, the anthropogenic pressure on the vegetation of formerly undisturbed cliff ecosystems is continuously increasing.

2. The impact of rock climbing on population structure and genetic variation of the rare plant species Draba aizoides was investigated representatively for many other typical central European cliff plants. Populations from eight climbed and from eight pristine cliffs were compared through the use of vertical transect analyses and molecular markers.

3. Population structure differed between climbed and pristine cliffs. Individuals of D. aizoides were significantly smaller and less frequent on climbed compared with pristine cliffs. On plateau sites, the species’ occurrence was unaffected by climbing activities; it was significantly less frequent on the faces, but more frequent on the tali of climbed in comparison with pristine cliffs.

4. Genetic variation was greater in populations from climbed compared with pristine cliffs, and genetic differentiation was stronger between subpopulations from pristine cliffs than between subpopulations from climbed cliffs.

5. Synthesis and applications. Rock climbing clearly affects population structure and genetic variation of D. aizoides. Seed dispersal is presumably enhanced by rock climbers but climbers remove and drop plant individuals from cliff faces, which causes a downward shift in population structure. This shift in turn reduces genetic differentiation between upper and lower subpopulations. In mountain regions that attract sport climbing, conservation management plans should therefore always ensure the provision of completely unclimbed cliffs to protect the native vegetation.
Jeremy Ross

Gym climber
North Fork, CA
May 4, 2011 - 05:28pm PT
AFLPs are so 1999. ;)

-JR
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 4, 2011 - 05:40pm PT
Sometime in the 1980s, long before the Squamish Chief became a park. Climber hikes up to the base of the Grand Wall, hears a chainsaw, when he gets there finds another climber who he knows has just felled a fairly large tree that used to be right at the base of The Flake.

#1: "Why'd you cut down that tree? It must have been at least 300 years old!"

#2: "Nah, it wasn't a day over 200."

(Story related by someone who was there - not me.)
sempervirens

climber
May 5, 2011 - 12:46am PT
I'll agree with the common sense approach.

The study might be boring and mundane to many. But it can inform us. And why not be informed before climbing, or especially before cleaning. We either do the climb or we don't. You can't decide not to decide. So how 'bout get some info before deciding. Then maybe we could climb in a different way: at a different time, or go around a small plant, or affect only one of 100 individuals, ....

IMHO, we should find out what plants we're killing before we clean them. At least figure out their name. Some plants reproduce very rarely, would you want to kill one of those?

The issue of rare plants on climbs has come up before on this forum. But it seems to die quickly.
tom Carter

Social climber
May 5, 2011 - 01:00am PT
Thanks Tami.

Common sense makes sense.
Captain...or Skully

climber
or some such
May 5, 2011 - 01:09am PT
Agreed, sempervirens.
Knowledge is power. The power to spare and nurture is great, also.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
May 5, 2011 - 01:27am PT
How much of the study concerned the vigorous nature of a particular environment's flora?

In some deserts it only takes one foot print to wreck the place. (obscure credit to Sheridan Anderson) In other environments, the vegetation has a keen interest in competition for the cliffs with humans.

The Squamish Chief has been treated to more than a few Brazilians but what keeps things clean is the particular route's consensus popularity.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 5, 2011 - 02:18am PT
http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/schweiz/novh/2007/00000085/F0020003/art00012

Effect of rock climbing on the calcicolous lichen community of limestone cliffs in the northern Swiss Jura Mountains
Authors: Baur, Bruno; Fröberg, Lars; Müller, Stefan W.
Source: Nova Hedwigia, Volume 85, Numbers 3-4, November 2007 , pp. 429-444(16)

Abstract:
Exposed limestone cliffs in the Swiss Jura Mountains harbour a diverse lichen community with some rare species. Sport climbing has recently increased in popularity on these cliffs. We examined the effect of sport climbing on calcicolous lichens by assessing species diversity and cover of lichens in climbed and unclimbed areas of 10 isolated cliffs in the northern Swiss Jura Mountains. We also investigated possible associations between lichens and lichen-feeding land snails on these cliffs. A total of 38 calcicolous lichen species, three bryophytes and one alga were found on the rock faces of 10 cliffs. Twenty lichen species (52.6%) were epilithic, 16(42.1%) endolithic and two (5.3%) foliose. Overall, the epilithic lichen species covered 8.3% of the rock surface, endolithic species 10.2%, and foliose species 0.03%. Climbed and unclimbed rock areas did not differ in total number of lichen species, species density (number of species per 100 cm2) or total lichen cover. However, the frequency of occurrence of epilithic lichens was lower along climbing routes than in unclimbed areas. A multi-response permutation test showed that the lichen community composition of climbed areas differed from that of unclimbed areas. The dissimilarity of lichen communities between climbed and unclimbed areas increased with increasing climbing intensity on the focal route in climbed areas, but not with the age of the climbing route. Five of the 11 snail species recorded on the cliff faces were specialized lichen feeders. Plots along climbing routes harboured fewer snail species than plots in unclimbed areas. Total snail abundance was positively correlated with lichen species richness, but no correlation between snail species richness and lichen species richness was found. Our results indicate that frequent rock climbing can change the lichen community and reduce the snail community of limestone cliffs. A climbing-related reduction of snail abundance may also alter the lichen-herbivore interaction and indirectly change competitive interactions among lichen species.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 5, 2011 - 02:24am PT
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00367.x/full

Influences of Microhabitat Constraints and Rock-Climbing Disturbance on Cliff-Face Vegetation Communities
KATHRYN LYNNE KUNTZ, DOUGLAS W. LARSON

Conservation Biology Volume 20, Issue 3, pages 821–832, June 2006

Abstract: Many researchers report that rock climbing has significant negative effects on cliff biota. Most work on climbing disturbance, however, has not controlled for variation in microsite characteristics when comparing areas with and without climbing presence. Additionally, some researchers do not identify the style or difficulty level of climbing routes sampled or select climbing routes that do not represent current trends in the sport. We solved these problems by sampling climbing areas used by advanced “sport” climbers and quantifying differences in microtopography between climbed and control cliffs. We determined whether differences in vegetation existed between pristine and sport-climbed cliff faces when microsite factors were not controlled. We then determined the relative influence of the presence of climbing, cliff-face microtopography, local physical factors, and regional geography on the richness, abundance, and community composition of cliff-face vascular plants, bryophytes, and lichens. When we did not control for microsite differences among cliffs, our results were consistent with the majority of prior work on impacts of climbing (i.e., sport-climbed cliff faces supported a lower mean richness of vascular plants and bryophytes and significantly different frequencies of individual species when compared with pristine cliff faces). When we investigated the relative influences of microtopography and climbing disturbance, however, the differences in vegetation were not related to climbing disturbance but rather to the selection by sport climbers of cliff faces with microsite characteristics that support less vegetation. Climbed sites had not diverged toward a separate vegetation community; instead, they supported a subset of the species found on pristine cliff faces. Prior management recommendations to restrict development of new climbing routes should be reevaluated based on our results.
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