Changes in plant species composition and litter production in response to roads and trails in the laurel forest of Tenerife (Canary Islands)
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Road density has increased in the Canary Islands’ forests during the last century, affecting an unknown amount of forested area. We studied road effects on vegetation in the relict laurel forest of Tenerife. We assessed edge effects on plant species richness, plant composition and litter production. Effects of anthropogenic corridors on vegetation differed between paved roads and unpaved trails. Opportunistic species (shade intolerant) dominated road edges, but composition differed among all sites. Multivariate analysis revealed convergence in species composition along the corridor-interior gradient. For trails, both species richness and litter production did not differ significantly between edge and interior. Road edge effects on vegetation were detectable only within the first 10 m towards the interior. This suggests that the main effects of roads and trails on species richness are limited to the immediate edge of the laurel forest. Litter fall along road edges was half that of the interior. However, no significant differences were detected due to the high variability of the data. A buffer of approximately 10 m would result in the reduction of the total area of the remaining undisturbed laurel forest. Based on these results, the building of new paved roads should not be considered. Low human population inflow into the Anaga Rural Park needs to be maintained on a sustainable basis. Forest managers should take these road/trail effects into account when planning new road openings in this ecosystem.