Evaluating techniques for restoring alpine environments is important due to increasing human impacts on Colorado mountains. We studied restoration success after 1 yr on an alpine area disturbed by trampling at 3700 m a.s.l., Humboldt Peak, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado. This area was revegetated in summer 1997 by transplanting pieces of turf cut from a new trail. For both transplants and controls, 100 points were sampled in seventeen 70 X 70 cm plots. Vascular plant species richness did not differ between transplant and control plots. Thirtyone species showed absolute covers not significantly different between transplant and control plots, and twelve species had higher covers in control plots or showed a strong trend in that direction. Sums of covers of all species declined by 35% in transplant plots. Transplant and control plots had differential relative success of some important species as measured by relative cover although almost all differences were small. Grasses increased moderately and forbs declined by 9%. Relative cover of the dominant, Geum rossii, as well as two common graminoids, Carex phaeocephala and Trisetum spicatum, decreased in transplant plots. The forbs Polygonum bistortoides and Potentilla subjuga increased in relative cover in transplant plots; one of the dominant species, Carex elynoides, and many secondary species, were not different between treatments. Success in total cover and of almost all species after 1 yr indicates turf-transplants work well in this community and should be employed to restore other damaged alpine areas when feasible.
Heavy, increasing recreation on Colorado’s high peaks has created numerous social trails requiring restoration. We studied success of turf transplants 3 yr after transplanting on Mount Belford in the Sawatch Range, and Humboldt Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range. Based on point-intercept data, sum of all vascular species’ covers was 12% to 31% lower in transplanted plots than in control areas. We found no differences in canopy density and height between transplant and control plots on Mount Belford, while both were about 40% lower in transplants on Humboldt Peak. Species richness adjusted for plot size was slightly greater in transplant plots on Mount Belford and slightly lower on Humboldt Peak. On both peaks, we found greater absolute cover of grasses in transplant plots, while forb cover was lower. After 3 yr, turf transplants effectively established vegetation cover and maintained high species richness in these communities. Whenever turf is available, e.g., new trail construction, it should be used to restore closed social trails and campsites, and turf transplants can be considered in other ecosystems for small disturbances in high-value areas where restoration would otherwise be slow.