Exposed cliffs of the Swiss Jura mountains harbour a highly diverse flora with many rare and endangered plant species. Many cliffs are frequently visited by rock climbers. We examined the impact of rock climbing on vascular plants in the lower part of four cliffs of the Gerstelflue (NW Switzerland) by comparing the vegetation of climbed and unclimbed areas. In climbed areas plant cover and species density were reduced. Similarly, the density of forbs and shrubs decreased, whereas the density of ferns tended to increase. In addition, rock climbing caused a significant shift in plant species composition and altered the proportions of different plant life forms. Rock climbing can be a threat to sensitive plants of the limestone cliff community.
Nomenclature: Binz & Heitz (1990).