Cliff Ecology of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

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

Abstract: Most of the world’s cliff ecosystems remain unexplored by biologists, yet the biodiversity on cliffs may be threatened by recreational activities like rock climbing. This study characterized the vascular plants, bryophytes, and lichens along 50 vertical transects in 18 cliff sites in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area to determine which factors influenced the distribution of cliff vegetation. Linear regressions indicated that vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens were influenced by different environmental drivers. West-facing slopes supported high vascular plant diversity, gentler slopes supported high bryophyte diversity, and high surface heterogeneity supported high lichen diversity. Multivariate analyses indicated that plant and lichen communities varied widely by transect within and across cliff sites. In addition, cliffs with forested edges supported higher diversity than did those with exposed edges. Rock climbing did not appear to influence community structure; however, this could be the result of low levels of climbing traffic. This study includes general guidelines for managing and conserving biodiversity of cliffs in the Big South Fork and presents a spatial model for predicting vegetative diversity and climbing potential. With the increasing popularity of rock climbing, understanding plant community dynamics on cliff faces is essential for developing sound management practices.

Additional Information

Boggess, L.M. Cliff Ecology of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2013
Cliff ecology, Rock climbing, Spatial modeling, GIS, Vegetation

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