Great Basin Naturalist


We examined effects of human foot traffic on age structures and densities of seedlings and saplings of Pinus edulis (Colorado pinyon) and Junisperus monosperma (one-seed juniper) in a heavily used urban park, Garden of the Gods, Colorado. Age structures show no stand-destroying disturbances, but they do contain small peaks 85–95 yr ago (minimum age), which have been interpreted as responses to heavy grazing. For Pinus edulis reverse J-shaped age structures indicate a strongly reproducing population, while flat age structures of J. monosperma show low present reproduction. Young trees showed strong preferences for establishing under existing trees and shrubs and not among herbs or on bare soil. Pinus edulis seedling density was reduced by 73% in heavily trampled areas compared to lightly trampled areas. However, there were no differences in density when only the area protected by rocks, shrubs, or trees was considered. This indicates that direct effects such as physical damage and soil erosion kill young trees, and indirect effects, such as lower seed production, do not cause the lower densities in heavily trampled areas. Pinus edulis saplings and J. monosperma seedlings and saplings showed no differences in density across trampling intensities. In heavily trampled areas of Garden of the Gods Park, recent increases in use have apparently reduced Pinus edulis seedling establishment enough that long-term regeneration is threatened. Managers of all pinyon-juniper woodlands must recognize that in areas strongly impacted by foot traffic, and also presumably by similar disturbances such as vehicle traffic, sufficient regeneration likely does not occur to replace trees. The areal extent of severely disturbed areas should be limited, and managers should seek to avoid further degradation of less damaged areas.