Impact of Visitors on Soil and Vegetation Characteristics in Urban Parks of Central Lithuania
Urban parks are a major recreational feature attracting a large number of visitors. The aim of the study is to investigate the impact of visitors on vegetation and soil in urban recreational parks. The objects of the study were Alytus and Kaunas City Parks with different frequency of visitors. Soil parameters (pH, bulk density, and compaction) were measured, and the cover of vegetation and species number were determined. In order to assess the effects of frequencies of visitors on vegetation and soil characteristics, the correlation between these parameters was determined. The results indicated that activities of visitors caused a detrimental effect on soil and vegetation in the studied parks. The number of species and the cover of vegetation were significantly lower in the intensive recreation sites. Species diversity was significantly higher in the control sites than in the sites under intensive recreation. Soil properties (density, pH) of urban parks were significantly lower in the control sites in comparison with the intense use sites. In intensive trampling areas of Kaunas City Park, soil density was 26% higher than in Alytus City Park. Soil pH increased by 17% in Alytus City Park and by 6% in Kaunas Park compared with the control. The average pressure in the middle of the tracks increased by 7−8 times compared with the control. With an increasing number of visitors, the negative influence on soil characteristics as well as decreased number of species, vegetation cover and diversity was found.