Effects of off-road vehicles on vertebrates in the California desert

Wildlife Research Report 8
By: , and 


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Off-road vehicle (ORV) use provides a form of outdoor recreation that is increasingly popular. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of these machines on creosote shrub habitat and associated wildlife in the western California Desert. Comparisons at eight paired sites (Control and ORV use) demonstrate that ORV-use areas have significantly fewer species of vertebrates, greatly reduced abundance of individuals, and noticeably lower reptile and small mammal biomass. Diversity, density, and biomass of reptiles and small mammals are inversely related to the level of ORV usage. The number of individuals found in heavily used and pit areas was 55% and 20%, respectively, of that present in undisturbed sites. Biomass estimates were even lower (23% and 17%, respectively). Censuses at three localities also showed decreased diversity, density, and biomass estimates of breeding birds in DRV-used areas. Present evidence indicates that off-road vehicles have a negative effect on desert wildlife over large areas. This widespread impact must be recognized to manage and conserve resources in DRV-use areas.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Effects of off-road vehicles on vertebrates in the California desert
Series title Wildlife Research Report
Series number 8
Year Published 1977
Language English
Publisher U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Description 23 p.
Country United States
State California
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