The Impact Of Rock-Climbing Disturbance On Cliff Communities Of The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Georgia R. Harrison (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Michael D. Madritch

Abstract: Cliff communities are dominated by stress-tolerant, often cryptic communities whose abundance is controlled by harsh abiotic conditions. These taxa vary in their requirement for soil, water, sunlight and ability to withstand disturbance. To assess the impact of climbing and habitat variability, cliffs at Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain in western North Carolina were surveyed. I observed 42 lichen, 21 bryophyte, and 22 vascular plant species. Climbed plots were less diverse and species rich than their unclimbed counterparts. Climbing impacts cliffs by holding back ecological succession to the pioneer stage, with abundant crustose lichens, while removing larger, later successional stage lichens. Since cliff vegetation varies by site due to differences in surface heterogeneity, each potential climbing area should be surveyed, especially for cryptic species, before management decisions are made. We built 3D models of cliffs using Structure-from-Motion techniques to quantify surface heterogeneity. Two focal statistics at larger neighborhood cell sizes were weakly correlated with field measures of heterogeneity. Vascular plant richness and diversity were correlated with few measures of remotely modeled surface heterogeneity. The methodology developed in this study will help lay the ground-work for remotely quantifying structural variability on cliff faces and hence increased consistency among cliff ecology researchers.

Additional Information

Harrison, G. (2020). The Impact Of Rock-Climbing Disturbance On Cliff Communities Of The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2020
Cliff community, Rock climbing, Structure-from-motion, Lichen, Surface heterogeneity

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