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Human paths have positive impacts on plant richness and diversity: A meta‐analysis

17 Oct 2018

Humans, like many other animals, make paths. Here we analyze the results of many studies of the impacts of human paths on plant richness and diversity. We find that on average the effect sizes of paths on plants are nonzero and positive.


We assess the impacts of human paths, trails, and roads on plant species richness and Shannon diversity. Most reviews of this topic have not considered community‐level measures and have focused on excessive tourism impacts. We found significant positive effects of paths on plant richness and diversity. The effect size for richness was highest when studies included roads (paved) or trails (unpaved). The effect size found for diversity was highest when studies were in grasslands. We also found experimental designs comparing high levels of path use to low levels of path use, near‐to‐path versus far‐from‐path and path‐presence versus path‐absence comparisons obtained the largest effect sizes. There was no evidence that non‐native species explained most increases in species richness or diversity. The effect sizes of human paths on plant communities are comparable in magnitude to those reported for other mammals’ disturbance and ecosystem engineering activities.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Ecology and Evolution