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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2015

  • Title: Ungulate Interactions with Forested Landscapes
  • Primary Author: Edward Faison (Highstead, Inc.)
  • Additional Authors: Justin Compton (University of Massachusetts at Amherst); Stephen DeStefano (U. S. Geological Survey, Cooperative Research Unit Program, University of Massachusetts); David Foster (Harvard Forest); David Wattles (University of Massachusetts at Amherst)
  • Abstract:

    Moose (Alces alces) have recently recolonized Southern New England after an absence of over two centuries. Recent information indicates that the population peaked in the mid-2000s, decreased to a lower carrying capacity, and has remained relatively stable, despite dramatic declines in abundance elsewhere along the southern edge of their range. Moose now join white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) as potential significant drivers of forest change, but few studies have examined the role of multiple ungulate species in structuring temperate forest communities. In 2014, we continued our studies on the effects of these two ungulates on tree recruitment (≥2 m in height) after 6-7 years in recently logged patch cuts of Central New England, USA. We established three levels of large herbivore composition (no ungulates, deer, deer + moose) using two types of fenced exclosures. Deer + moose browsing reduced stem density, basal area, and the relative abundance of Prunus pensylvanica and Quercus rubra/velutina. Betula lenta and Acer rubrum showed little change in relative abundance with browsing. Mean species richness (density) above 2 m in height declined with browsing by deer, but did not decline significantly in response to much greater browsing intensity by deer + moose. Individual-based rarefaction curves showed the highest species richness in deer + moose plots, with considerable overlap with no ungulate plots and divergence from deer plots above 200 individual stems. Our results suggest that browsing by multiple ungulate species has both straightforward and complex effects on regenerating temperate forests

  • Research Category: Biodiversity Studies; Conservation and Management; Large Experiments and Permanent Plot Studies; Physiological Ecology, Population Dynamics, and Species Interactions