What happens to the soil when people travel off of designated trails and routes? This article was written in for hikers in areas with frequent usage. In Juniper Flats hikers are allowed to go off trail because the density of hikers and frequency of usage is low. As more people hike in the area, management will reevaluate their policy.
Motorized vehicles weigh more than hikers and apply more force with rotating tires. As a result, the impacts of riding or driving off of designated routes is much greater. In the Juniper Flats Area, operation of motorized vehicles is only allowed on designated routes. The concepts explained in the re-blogged article also apply to operation of motorized vehicles off of designated routes.
Question: Why does it matter if I stay on the trail while hiking in the woods and parks?
Answer: People love to be outdoors, and soil is an important contributor to a good outing, whether you are hiking, mountain biking, painting, or just enjoying nature. But humans can have significant impacts on the soil. When we walk on soil, our body weight compresses the soil. Soil compaction occurs when soil particles are pressed together, reducing the space between them. This has several effects.
In the figure to the right, you can see that soil particles come in various sizes. In between the particles are open spaces, or “pores”. These pores allow air and water to move through the soil. Air is important because microbes living in soil pores use some of the nitrogen and other…
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