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Human activities, such as hiking and biking, have been shown to reduce the height, coverage, and species richness of vegetation along trail systems. Yet, research on the effects of such activities on Tennessee trail systems is limited. The goal of this study is twofold. First, it is to identify to what possible extent these activities along the White Oak Mountain trail system (Southern Adventist University) have on wildflower population abundance and diversity. Secondary, it is to discuss whether the mental health advantages of being outdoors outweigh possible adverse effects that human activity has on nature. Ten permanent quadrats were set up, with variations in elevation and distance from the trail. During the month of April, while wildflower growth is at its peak, data were collected on the variety and abundance of wildflowers in each quadrat. During the same time period, game cameras were used to document trial traffic at each location. Data collected in 2015 and 2019 revealed an increase in wildflower abundance. However, increased trail traffic did not correlate with effects on wildflower abundance or diversity. Diversity was higher in quadrats closer to the trails, which may have been due to the effects of anthropic edges. These results have some implications for humans. Many studies have established that humans gain significant psychological and biological benefits from time in nature. Our study suggests that the effects of human traffic on native fauna should not deter people from experiencing the outdoors through local trail systems.
Robinson, Eli and Turley, Lein, "Quantifying the Effects of Trail Traffic on Nearby Plant Communities and Implications for Trail Users" (2019). Achieve. 2168.