Impact of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on pickleweed (Salicornia virginica L.) in a San Francisco Bay wetland

  • Published source details Hannaford M.J. & Resh V.H. (1999) Impact of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on pickleweed (Salicornia virginica L.) in a San Francisco Bay wetland. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 7, 225-233.


In North America, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are widely used in wetland management activities, but their effects on vegetation over which they may be driven are poorly known. Two types of ATVs (the ArgoTM and LightfootTM) were tested in Petaluma Marsh, California, to determine their effects on a common saltmarsh plant, pickleweed Salicornia virginica, in terms of stem-height reductions, stem breakage, biomass and growth.

Study area: Two types of ATVs (the ArgoTM and LightfootTM) were tested at Petaluma Marsh, Sonoma Co., California, southwest USA.

Experimental design: The experiment was designed to assess:

i) stem-height reductions and stem breakage (as biomass), by simulating light (a path traversed twice) and heavy vehicle use (a path traversed 20 times), and evaluating damage immediately after the treatments and one year later

ii) biomass and growth by using a BACI (before-after-control-impact) design, with two sets of replicated samples collected before a light-use treatment, two sets after treatment (during the same growing season), and one set the following year.

Stem height and broken stem biomass: Salicornia stem height was significantly reduced by both types of vehicle immediately following treatment, and was similar for both light and heavy use. However, biomass of broken stems was significantly higher for the LightfootTM than for the ArgoTM; biomass of broken stems was also higher with heavy use by both vehicles.

A year after the ATVs had been driven over the plants, biomass of broken stems was not significantly different in light use treatments for either ATV, but lower stem height was still evident from LightfootTM in heavy use treatments.

Biomass and growth: Immediately following treatment, biomass-growth measurements were significantly lower for both ATVs during the same growing season, but no significant differences were found between either vehicle treatment and controls one year later. However, the Salicornia driven over by the LightfootTM had lower productivity.

Conclusions: The results indicated that even limited ATV use causes immediate impact to pickleweed but that limited use of a soft-tread vehicle, like the Argo, allows vegetation to recover within a year. Where vehicle use is essential for management of pickleweed wetlands, soft-tread ATVs  should be selected and vegetation driven over as little as possible.

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at:


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