Heavy visitor use in many areas of the world have necessitated development of ways to assess visitation impacts. Arches National Park recently completed a Visitor Experience and Resource Protection (VERP) plan. Integral to this plan was developing a method to identify biological indicators that would both measure visitor impacts and response to management actions. The process used in Arches for indicator selection is outlined here as a model applicable to many areas facing similar challenges. The steps were: (1) Vegetation types most used by visitors were identified. Impacted and unimpacted areas in these types were sampled, comparing vegetation and soil factors. (2) Variables found to differ significantly between compared sites were used as potential indicators. (3) Site-specific criteria for indicators were developed, and potential indicators evaluated using these criteria. (4) Chosen indicators were further researched for ecological relevancy. (5) Final indicators were chosen, field tested, and monitoring sites designated. In Arches, indicators were chosen for monitoring annually (soil crust index, soil compaction, number of used social trails and soil aggregate stability) and every five years (vegetation cover and frequency; ground cover; soil chemistry; and plant tissue chemistry).
Additional publication details
Choosing indicators of natural resource condition: A case study in Arches National Park, Utah, USA