Recovery of Alpine Herbfield on a Closed Walking Track in the Kosciuszko Alpine Zone, Australia
Pascal Scherrer, Catherine Marina Pickering
Human use of arctic and alpine environments can result in damage to the natural vegetation and soils. Restoration of the damage can have limited success due to the severity of the environment, which restricts plant germination and growth and increases the potential for soil erosion. In this study, we evaluated the success of restoration of a closed track in the alpine area around continental Australia's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. Vegetation and soils along a 4 km walking track (that was closed and rehabilitated more than 15 yr ago) were compared with the adjacent undisturbed vegetation and soils. There was limited success in restoration with clear differences in soil nutrients, extent of vegetation cover, plant species composition, and height of vegetation between the track and adjacent natural vegetation sampled using 1 m2 quadrats. The study highlights the need for limiting disturbance in such environments, and for ongoing rehabilitation in areas that have been disturbed. It also indicates that when non-native species are used in rehabilitation, they may not necessarily be succeeded by natives, particularly if soil conditions do not return to a state similar to undisturbed areas.