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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Examining interactions between ungulate browsers and canopy disturbances on forest dynamics
  • Primary Author: Edward Faison (Highstead, Inc.)
  • Additional Authors: Audrey Barker Plotkin (Harvard Forest); Stephen DeStefano (U. S. Geological Survey, Cooperative Research Unit Program, University of Massachusetts); David Foster (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    Large herbivores alter ecosystems in complex ways that depend on many factors such as herbivore density, vegetation density, site productivity, and disturbance. The effects of herbivores on vegetation communities and below-ground processes therefore tend to be highly context dependent. Browsing combined with forest canopy disturbances can delay succession and alter the composition and diversity of herb and shrub layers. However, less clear is the extent to which different disturbance types and resulting vegetation structures alter the effects that herbivores have on understory vegetation dynamics.

    We took advantage of the existing Harvard Forest Hemlock Removal Experiment that simulates severe Hemlock Woolly Adelgid attack and salvage logging in a controlled setting to examine the response and effects of herbivores on regenerating vegetation following different canopy disturbances. We observed that ungulates (deer and moose) had shifting control on tree regeneration at different stages of stand recovery and in different understory conditions resulting from logging vs. simulated adelgid attack. In 2017 we will resample 5-year old exclosure and control plots in the different treatment plots to determine the extent to which herbivores have altered herbaceous and shrub layer composition and diversity.

    In 2017 we will also collaborate with (1) visiting researcher Walter Carson (Univ. of Pittsburg) on ungulate seed bank dynamics in disturbed and undisturbed forests; and (2) LTER co-investigator Adrien Finzi (Boston University) on the effects of ungulates on soil nutrients and biogeochemistry in recently logged forests.

  • Research Category: Large Experiments and Permanent Plot Studies, Biodiversity Studies