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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2009

  • Title: Local to Sub-Regional Assessment of Mammalian Herbivory in Massachusetts
  • Primary Author: Edward Faison (Highstead, Inc.)
  • Additional Authors: David Foster (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    Large herbivores -- often interacting with climate, fire, and human disturbance – can profoundly shape vegetation communities. In forests, large mammals can have important effects on species composition, tree density, successional pathways, and nutrient cycling. Moose have re-colonized southern New England in the past 20 years after a 200 year absence, introducing a potentially important new forest disturbance to the region. Harvard Forest in collaboration with researchers at the University of Massachusetts, has recently initiated a long-term study of the role of moose and deer in Massachusetts forests. The study has two primary components: (1) experimental exclosures at a site/landscape scale and (2) observational plots at a sub-regional scale.

    The experimental exclosures are located in three recently harvested conifer plantation cuts on the Prospect Hill Tract at Harvard Forest and are employed in a randomized block design with 3 factors -- full exclosure, partial exclosure, and open plot. A fourth block will be added at the Forest's Tom Swamp Tract in 2009. The design enables us to quantify forest composition and structure, ecosystem properties, and browsing selectivity and intensity in areas (1) exposed to moose and deer browsing, (2) protected from moose and deer browsing, and (3) exposed to deer browsing but protected from moose browsing. Two of the blocks were sampled for woody and herbaceous vegetation and browsing characteristics in 2008; the second two will be sampled in 2009. Browsing intensity was similar between the open (77% of available stems browsed) and partial exclosure (72% of stems browsed) plots, and only deer pellet piles were recorded in the open plots, indicating that deer are currently an important browser in these one year old regenerating stands.

    The 2009 observational study across Massachusetts will involve using GPS locations of 15-16 radio-collared moose to pinpoint areas of heavy moose activity at which vegetation, site, and browsing characteristics will be compared with less heavily used (or unused) areas.

  • Research Category: Conservation and Management, Large Experiments and Permanent Plot Studies