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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2010

  • Title: Regional impacts of ungulate browsing in the hemlock-hardwood-white pine forests of southern New England
  • Primary Author: Edward Faison (Highstead, Inc.)
  • Additional Authors: Stephen DeStefano (U. S. Geological Survey, Cooperative Research Unit Program, University of Massachusetts); David Foster (Harvard University)
  • Abstract:

    Large mammals are important forest disturbances capable of altering community composition, biodiversity, tree density, successional pathways, and nutrient cycling. The extent to which browsers exert important impacts on forests, however, depends greatly on the intensity and duration of browsing, the resistance of the vegetation to herbivory, available resources to plants, and the scale at which these factors are being investigated. Since the late-1980s moose have recolonized their pre-historical range in southern New England and have joined white-tailed deer, to create a potentially important new driver of forest dynamics in the region. Although deer impacts to the white pine-hemlock-hardwood forests have been documented in other regions, no studies have looked at combined deer and moose impacts to this forest type in southern New England or elsewhere in North America.

    In the summer of 2010, we will investigate the importance of deer and moose browsing – relative to other biotic, physical, and historical variables – in limiting forest regeneration across Central and Western Massachusetts and northern CT and Rhode Island where hemlock-hardwood-white pine forest is the predominant regional forest type. We will focus, in particular, on the regeneration of foundation species under threat such as oak and hemlock. At least 50 sites will be randomly selected and sampled across the region. Vegetation measurements at each site will include sampling overstory trees, tree seedlings and tall shrubs. Deer and moose browsing will be assessed on tree seedlings; bark stripping, antler rubbing, and stem breakage will be noted on larger trees, and deer and moose pellet piles will be tallied.

  • Research Category: Conservation and Management
    Regional Studies