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Keywords:

  • subalpine campsite restoration;
  • recreation impacts;
  • compost;
  • soil chemistry;
  • microbial communities

Abstract

The effects of intensive recreation impacts and restoration amendments on soil parameters were assessed at four campsites in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, northeastern Oregon. Sites (2,215- to 2,300-m elevation) are characterized by shallow granitic soils, an Abies lasiocarpa/Pinus albicaulis overstory, and a Vaccinium scoparium understory. In fall 1995, plots were established at four campsites on three subalpine lakes in which soils were scarified, compost amended, and planted to native species. In summer 1998, we sampled surface soils (0–15 cm) on undisturbed sites (between and under vegetation) and unamended and compost-amended campsite soils. Samples were analyzed for total organic C, total N, potentially mineralizable N (PMN), NH4, soil moisture, microbial biomass, basal 5-day respiration rates, and microbial community carbon utilization profiles. Unamended campsite soils had significantly lower levels of PMN, microbial biomass, basal respiration, and number of substrates metabolized in carbon utilization profiles. Compost addition elevated all these impacted parameters on campsite soils, although the increase in basal respiration rate was neither statistically significant nor sufficient to approach rates found underneath vegetation on undisturbed soils. Only the number of substrates metabolized in the carbon utilization profiles was significantly higher on compost-amended soils than on undisturbed soils. Levels of PMN indicate that campsite soils may lack sufficient N for rapid plant regeneration, whereas amended and undisturbed soils contained adequate quantities of available N. This work suggests that compost amendments can ameliorate impacts to soil chemistry and microbial populations caused by camping, without exceeding the N fertility found on undisturbed soils.