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2009 Harvard Forest REU Student Symposium Abstracts

Author:
Jennifer Popham - UMASS Amherst

Title:
Seedling & Sapling Composition Influences Browse Intensity of Ungulates in Massachusetts

Abstract:

Forest ungulates, such as deer and moose, select areas in which to feed based on particular site and landscape characteristics. Therefore, the extent to which ungulates impact the regeneration of forest patches that have experienced disturbances such as logging, may be strongly linked to both site and landscape conditions. To determine how habitat features influence deer and moose foraging in southern New England, browsing intensity (prop. of stems browsed per site) was analyzed in relation to five predictor variables including harvest age, harvest size, proximity to development, local temperature, and percent of deciduous seedlings and saplings. Study sites were located in the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed and Ware River Watershed forests in the Worcester-Monadnock Plateau ecological subsection. We randomly selected 34 recently harvested stands, stratifying by (1) age of harvest, (2) forest type (oak-pine), (3) harvest type, and (4) proximity to major roads. To maximize the variation in the relative intensity of ungulate activity, we also used data from five radio-collared moose roaming the study area to select at least one site per harvest age known to be heavily used by moose.

Although four of the predictor variables proved to be insignificant, we did find a positive correlation between browsing intensity and the relative percentage of deciduous seedlings and saplings growing within a plot. Overall, sites with a greater amount of deciduous stems were intensively browsed compared to sites with a higher conifer composition. We also found that 74% of the sites had at least half their stems browsed, which demonstrates the important impact ungulates can have on young forests. The high levels of browse intensity found at sites close to roads and development suggests that moose and deer may not be deterred by human presence.


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