Hiking and backpacking on American National Scenic Trails has increased in popularity in recent years. To encourage responsible and sustainable outdoor recreation on these much-loved trails, direct and indirect management strategies must be employed by managerial agencies. The Leave No Trace (LNT) education program aims to protect natural resources by promoting minimum-impact behaviours that lessen environmental impacts. The accidental introduction and dispersal of non-native invasive flora by hikers is little studied but can have a detrimental environmental impact on protected areas. The purpose of our study was to understand whether Appalachian Trail thru-hikers are: 1) aware of this problem, 2) adhering to LNT principles to reduce this problem, and 3) willing to learn and adopt minimum-impact behaviours to address this problem. We found that thru-hiker knowledge of invasive plants was limited and that very few thru-hikers adopted low-impact practices to minimise plant introduction and spread. Promisingly, we found that most thru-hikers, once aware of the problems, were willing to learn and apply low-impact practices to minimise plant introduction and spread. We discuss the barriers to their adoption of these behaviours and present a comprehensive list of suggested LNT practices to limit invasive plant introduction and spread. We conclude that, whilst challenging, protected area managers can help deter the spread of invasive plants along trails by improving educational messaging, signage, personal communication, and providing supporting infrastructure that encourages visitors to adopt specific practices to minimise invasive plant introduction and spread within protected areas.
|Title||Invasive plant hitchhikers: Appalachian Trail thru-hiker knowledge and attitudes of invasive plants and Leave No Trace practices|
|Authors||Megan Dolman, Jeffrey L. Marion|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Eastern Ecological Science Center|
Jeff Marion, Ph.D.
Jeff Marion, Ph.D.