Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Research Publication: Management Implications of Large-Ungulate Herbivory

moderate/high ungulate herbivory risk
I wanted to share a recently released Forest Service Northern Research Station publication.  The publication entitled, Subcontinental-scale patters of large-ungulate herbivory and synoptic review of restoration management implications for midwestern and northeastern forests provides an in-depth overview of browsing impacts by deer and other large ungulates across a wide range, from the NE to the mid-west. Researchers concluded that 59 percent of the 182.4 million acres of forest land inventoried across that area was estimated to have moderate or high browse impacts.  All of this relates to greater challenges in the successful regeneration and management of these forests.

The study findings confirm the following for forest regeneration management within areas stressed by high herbivory:
1.) Browse impacts have extensive and long-term implications. Large ungulates still impede regeneration management in problem areas identified by Leopold and colleagues 70 years ago. Leopold did not predict that control or reduction of large ungulates would become a perennial challenge, but he did correctly anticipate that problem areas would expand.
2.) Less palatable tree species will continue to have a competitive advantage during the regeneration stage, potentially resulting in a future canopy composition that is different from the existing canopy-dominant species.
3.) Monitoring composition, structure, and browse will be critically important for success. Planning for regeneration management is made difficult by the interactions of multiple factors, such as the size and condition of the forest tract, dominant tree species, degree of alien plant or pest intrusion, and the population dynamics of the browsers, as influenced by birth rate and losses from predation, disease, and starvation.

Here is the full abstract:
Browse of forest understory vegetation by deer and other large ungulates alters ecosystem processes, making it difficult to regenerate forest land in herbivory-stressed areas. Seventy years ago, Aldo Leopold identified problem areas in the United States where overpopulation of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was likely to lead to overbrowsing of nutritive plants. Species of plants with little or no nutritive value would thereby gain a competitive advantage. Recent measurements of browse impacts on regionwide forest inventory plots in the midwestern and northeastern United States provide the opportunity to review the work of Leopold and others. A visualization of the probability of browse impact levels that warrant consideration during regeneration planning is presented for comparison to historical maps. Currently, 59 percent of the 182.4 million acres of forest land inventoried in the Midwest and Northeast was estimated to have moderate or high browse impacts. The Mid-Atlantic region had the highest proportion of forest land with moderate or high browse impacts (79 percent). The oak/hickory (Quercus/Carya) and maple/beech/birch (Acer/Fagus/Betula) forest-type groups each had percentages of forest land with moderate or high impacts above the regional average, 69 percent and 65 percent, respectively. The problem areas described by Leopold and others persist and new areas have emerged in the Central/Plains, Mid-Atlantic, and New England States. The study findings confirm three realities of forest regeneration management for forests under herbivory stress in the Midwest and Northeast: 1) The scope and persistence of large-ungulate herbivory has long-term wide-ranging implications for regeneration management; 2) less palatable tree species will continue to have a competitive advantage during the regeneration phase and are likely to be different species from the current canopy dominants; and 3) successful regeneration management of these forests requires more emphasis on ungulate-compatible prescriptions, novel approaches, and adaptive science.

You can view the full PDF of the publication by clicking here. (3.0 MB)

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