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A spatial exploration of informal trail networks within Great Falls Park, VA

June 16, 2011

Informal (visitor-created) trails represent a threat to the natural resources of protected natural areas around the globe. These trails can remove vegetation, displace wildlife, alter hydrology, alter habitat, spread invasive species, and fragment landscapes. This study examines informal and formal trails within Great Falls Park, VA, a sub-unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, managed by the U.S. National Park Service. This study sought to answer three specific questions: 1) Are the physical characteristics and topographic alignments of informal trails significantly different from formal trails, 2) Can landscape fragmentation metrics be used to summarize the relative impacts of formal and informal trail networks on a protected natural area? and 3) What can we learn from examining the spatial distribution of the informal trails within protected natural areas? Statistical comparisons between formal and informal trails in this park indicate that informal trails have less sustainable topographic alignments than their formal counterparts. Spatial summaries of the lineal and areal extent and fragmentation associated with the trail networks by park management zones compare park management goals to the assessed attributes. Hot spot analyses highlight areas of high trail density within the park and findings provide insights regarding potential causes for development of dense informal trail networks.

Publication Year 2011
Title A spatial exploration of informal trail networks within Great Falls Park, VA
DOI 10.1016/j.jenvman.2010.11.015
Authors Jeremy Wimpey, Jeffrey L. Marion
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Environmental Management
Index ID 70003776
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center