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Abstract Detail

Bryological and Lichenological Section/ABLS

Studlar, Susan [1], Clark, Peter [2], Mahan, Carolyn [3].

Climbing Impacts on Cliff Bryophyte and Lichen Communities in the New River Gorge (NERI), West Virginia.

We assessed the impact of recreational climbing on bryophyte and lichen communities on the steep (to 50 m) sandstone (Nuttall, Pottsville, Pennsylvanian) cliffs in the New River Gorge National River (NERI) region in the Allegheny Plateau of south-central West Virginia, where there are 1700 established climbing routes, most in use for over 20 years. To assess climbing impact on species richness, Clark (2012, WVU M.A. Thesis) inventoried Cliff Top, Face, and Base communities on Nuttall sandstone cliffs, using belt transects and stratified random sampling, with 111 transects (79 on climb routes, 32 on unclimbed “control” routes), plus 36 transects that included  Raleigh, Guyandot, and Pineville unclimbed sandstone cliffs.  Soil compaction and anthropogenic disturbance were recorded for the 111 transects, which were stratified by use intensity and climb difficulty. Lichens were identified by Don G. Flenniken and bryophytes by Susan Moyle Studlar. The project was sponsored by the National Park Service (NERI). The 87 bryophyte species (61 mosses, 26 liverworts) and 122 lichen species made up about 60% of the total cliff flora. Eight bryophyte and nineteen lichen species were of special interest: relatively uncommon based on habitat restriction, abundance or geographic range.  The most frequent bryophytes were Leucobryum glaucum ,Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans, Campylopus tallulensis , and Dicranella heteromalla, all with abundant asexual propagules. Special interest bryophytes included Brothera leana, Dicranum condensatum, D. spurium and Cephloziella spinicaulis. The most frequent lichens were: unknown crusts, Lasallia pennsylvanica, Physcia subtilis, Cladonia sp., Lasallia papulosa, and Lepraria lobificans.  Special interest lichens included: Umbilicaria americana, Chrysothrix susquehannensis, C. insulizans, Lepraria cryophila, Enterographa hutchinseae, and Ramalina intermedia. Lichens with single attachment points (umbilicate and fruticose) may be especially vulnerable to dislodging by climbers. The greatest impact was on Cliff Bases at popular Traditional Climbing sites (removable gear used) where bryophyte richness was significantly reduced and soil compacted. Lichen species richness was most reduced on Cliff Top Extreme Use sites. Generally bryophyte and lichen species richness decreased slightly as use level increased, except for a slight increase at low use levels. NERI cliffs serve as a major refugium for species uncommon in the surrounding landscape. Conservation recommendations include: ending climbs below the Cliff Top (with anchors placed 2 m below lip), rerouting climb access trails away from the Cliff Base, discouraging climbs on low angle cliffs with complex microtopography and correspondingly high species richness, avoiding climb route proliferation, educating climbers, and monitoring cliff communities with help from climbers

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1 - Department Of Biology, 53Campus Drive, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, 26506-6057, USA
2 - West Virginia University, Geology and Geography, Brooks Hall, Morgantown, WV, 26506, USA
3 - Penn State Altoona, Biology, Hawthorn Building, Altoona, PA, 16601, USA

climbing impacts on cliffs
Lichen Diversity
New River Gorge (NERI) of West Virginia
Bryophyte Diversity.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 2
Location: Firs North/Boise Centre
Date: Monday, July 28th, 2014
Time: 8:00 AM
Number: 2001
Abstract ID:282
Candidate for Awards:None

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