Influence of Cattle Stocking Rate on Browsing of Norway Spruce in Subalpine Wood Pastures

Authors: Mayer, A.; Stöckli, V.; Konold, W.; Kreuzer, M.

Source: Agroforestry Systems, Volume 66, Number 2, February 2006 , pp. 143-149(7)

Publisher: Springer

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In the Swiss Alps, 15% of Swiss mountain forests are grazed during summer, mainly by cattle. The forest laws of various Swiss cantons characterise forest grazing as a detrimental form of land use and stipulate that this grazing practice should be restricted. However, little is known about tree damage actually caused by cattle. Seven subalpine ranges in the Swiss Canton Grisons, grazed by cattle at different stocking rates, were investigated. The condition of naturally regenerated young trees (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) was assessed before and after the cattle grazing period. In order to characterise the influence of wild ungulates on the young trees during winter, the assessment of tree condition was repeated in the proximate spring. In total, 4% of the young trees were browsed on the apical shoot, 10% were browsed on lateral shoots, 13% of the trees showed other damage. The variation among ranges could almost completely be explained by the cattle stocking rate (livestock units per hectare). During winter, wild ungulates browsed 3 times as many young trees as the cattle during summer. The results suggest that cattle stocking rates on subalpine wood pastures should not exceed one livestock unit per hectare in order to avoid intensive browsing and other damage by cattle on young Norway spruces.

Keywords: Browsing; Forest dynamics; Range management; Silvopastoral systems; Wild ungulates

Document Type: Research Article


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Publication date: February 1, 2006

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