REU: GINA COLLIGNON  
Gina Collington: Portrait

Since the early 1800s horses, donkeys, and mules have played a huge role in the exploration the Sierra Nevadas as well as serving as a widely used and appreciated recreational tool. However, there are growing concerns about the irreversible effects pack stock can have on alpine meadows. In April 2000 the High Sierra Hiker’s Association filed a lawsuit against the US Forest Service for their pack stock guidelines and permit quota system within the Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness areas. The court mandated that the Forest Service report on the current state of those meadows visited by pack stock and also called for a long term monitoring system. This study aimed to create a simple, representative sampling method to correlate vegetation communities with impact amount and intensity. We hoped to create a sampling method simple enough for the non-expert to perform, but detailed enough to provide invaluable predictive information on pack stock impacts. We used a clustering analysis to create vegetation categories based on moisture level, life form, heigh, litter cover, and gopher presence. We found that there was a significantly greater amount of sod fragmentation in wet areas while trail were not siginificantly greater in any vegetation category.

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