Major changes need to be made to the way ski pistes are managed if delicate alpine plants are to be protected, ecologists have warned. According to new research published today in the British Ecological Societys Journal of Applied Ecology, machine grading and artificial snow production is causing significant changes in the number and type of plant species in the European Alps.
Sonja Wipf of the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF and colleagues from the University of Zurich and the University of Potsdam in Germany examined plant species at 12 Swiss ski resorts. They found that, compared with off-piste plots, there were 11% fewer plant species on ski pistes, with woody plants and early-flowering species being most badly affected.
Machine grading of ski slopes caused most damage to vegetation, with machine-graded slopes having five times more bare ground than ungraded pistes. And, say the researchers, this damage is long lasting. They found pistes that had been machine graded as long as 30 years ago and re-sown with plant seed had still not recovered. "Machine grading constitutes the most drastic vegetation disturbance on ski pistes. It should be avoided wherever possible, as it causes lasting damage that cannot be overcome by revegetation measures, particularly at higher altitudes," they say.
Birgit Ottmer | idw
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