The purpose of this website is to address environmental concerns in relation to the development of mountain bike trails in Australia’s natural areas

undefinedAustralia’s biodiversity (the variety of living things) is in serious decline, and human pressures increasingly affect our natural areas. There is growing community concern that escalating tourism-related developments, encouraged by all levels of government, are accelerating these detrimental impacts on natural areas and their ecosystems. There is also an increasing body of scientific literature addressing this topic.

One of these tourism-related developments is the construction of mountain bike trails, particularly the tendency to build them in relatively undisturbed natural and sometimes protected, areas.

Some examples of the detrimental impacts from mountain biking and trail construction are:

  • Cumulative impacts on ecosystems are occurring due to the sheer scale of mountain bike trails. One trail construction can be hundreds of kilometres long. These continue to be built throughout Australia, often in extremely ‘ecologically sensitive’ areas such as;
  • Steep gullies, that play a vital role as ‘refugia’ for plants and animals and fire protection, yet they are popular for mountain biking adventures and are often damaged and disturbed
  • Edge Effects can affect species when trail construction causes changes in the vegetation structure at the edges of their habitat. Edge effects also encourage weeds and can spread serious environmental threats such as Phytophthora (Phytophthora cinnamomi), which can cause permanent damage to ecosystems and landscapes
  • Disturbance from machinery during construction, maintenance and biking on trails can detrimentally affect threatened species such as Powerful Owls, Wedge-tailed eagles and Koalas as well as small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates that would be less able to avoid the rapid approach of mountain bikers
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation can lead to ‘niche reductions’ for plant and animal species. They lose their ‘homes’ and thus, ecosystems decline
  • In summary, this websites aims to add another dimension to the plethora of information available regarding tourism-related mountain biking developments.

It provides information regarding scientific reports on these impacts as well as media articles and grey literature. While we focus on environmental impacts, the social and economic costs to communities from mountain biking developments should not be ignored and information regarding those aspects is supplied.

We hope it will engender more environmental, social and economic consideration by decision-makers, land managers and recreational users of natural areas concerning the development of mountain biking trails and their associated infrastructures.


Wildlife avoids places visited by outdoor adventurers: UBC

An analysis of trail use by UBC researchers reveals wildlife tends to avoid places that were recently visited by recreational users.
UBC researchers placed motion-activated cameras on the trails in and around the South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park in southwestern B.C., a region popular for its wildlife and recreational activities such as hiking, horseback riding, ATV riding and mountain biking.
They found that factors such as the elevation or the condition of the forest around a camera location were generally more important than human activity in determining how often wildlife used the trails.
Still, outdoor recreation had significant impacts.
Deeper analysis of trail use captured by the cameras shows that all wildlife tended to avoid places that were recently visited by recreational users.
And they avoided mountain bikers and motorized vehicles significantly more than they did hikers and horseback riders.
The researchers focused on 13 species including grizzly bear, black bear, moose, mule deer and wolf.
“We wanted to better understand the relative impacts of human recreation in this region, given its increasing popularity. We already know that motorized vehicle access can disrupt wildlife; our initial findings suggest that other types of recreation may also be having impacts,” said study author Robin Naidoo, a UBC adjunct professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability.
Like many parks, the South Chilcotin Mountains provincial park and nearby regions are experiencing growing pressure from human activities—both recreational and industrial.
According to Naidoo, the study confirms that camera traps can effectively monitor both wildlife and human trail use in these and other remote regions. “We’ll be able to collect more information over time and build a solid basis for research findings that can ultimately inform public policy,” he added.
Study co-author Cole Burton, a professor of forestry at UBC and the Canada Research Chair in terrestrial mammal conservation, says further research will be needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
“This is the first year of our multiyear study of the region. We’ll continue to observe and to analyze, so that we can better understand and mitigate the effects of these different human activities on wildlife,” said Burton.
“Relative effects of recreational activities on a temperate terrestrial wildlife assemblage” was published recently in Conservation Science and Practice.
The study received funding from Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, World Wildlife Fund, Lillooet Naturalists Society and BC Parks.