The Geomorphic Nature of Mountain Bike Impacts on Selected Trail Systems near Austin, Texas.
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Mountain bike trails exist as physical manifestations of direct mountain biker forcing on the landscape. The geomorphic nature of these impacts was evaluated using innovative techniques with accelerometer data as a proxy for mountain biker forcing. Mountain biker forcing variables and landscape scale variables including topography, vegetation cover, and soil type and texture were evaluated in regard to their influence on trail morphology. Trail systems in the Austin, Texas area were used for the study. Each trail system had different trail user groups and management requirements. Trail morphology was found to be correlated with trail user forcing as documented by accelerometers and other movement variables such as speed and turn angles. Trail morphology was shown to be influenced by vegetation cover and soil type and texture. Trail morphology was also influenced by land management requirements introducing a political component to geomorphic change. Mountain biker generated forcing was most correlated with trail morphology at trails which had higher mountain bike traffic relative to other user groups. Overall use rates, independent of user type, were most influential on trail morphology. Further research is needed to gain better resolution for accelerometer data by sampling riders of various skill levels. As a proof-of-concept project this research provides an entry point for research about the geomorphic nature of mountain bike trails.