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Competitive Effects on Plantation White Spruce Saplings from Shrubs That Are Important Browse for Moose

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Conifer planting is often accompanied by herbicide control of surrounding broadleaf, woody plants that may interfere with conifer growth, a process that releases conifers from competitive suppression. Because potential competitors often provide browse for wildlife, their removal may conflict with objectives in multiple-resource management. While some agencies, such as the USDA Forest Service (USFS), have greatly reduced herbicide use, many other timber producers still rely on chemicals to release conifers from competing vegetation. In northeastern Minnesota, where moose (Alces alces) are a highly valued resource, we studied impacts of broadleaf shrubs on 4- to 16-yr-old white spruce (Picea glauca) along with the extent of browsing by moose on these shrubs. Height, diameter, and current vertical growth increment of spruce were compared among four levels of presence (density strata) of shrubs immediately surrounding each sapling. Spruce grew as well or better in the low and medium density strata as in the no-shrub stratum. In the high density stratum, height and growth increment, particularly in 10- to 16-yr-old spruce, appeared reduced. Presence of shrubs seemed to reduce frost damage in young spruce. Moose browsing reduced height of most shrub species, suggesting that these animals provide a release effect on adjacent spruce. We recommend a release strategy that avoids reduction of shrubs beyond the level that assures normal growth in young spruce, so as both to minimize loss of browse for wildlife and avoid unnecessary silvicultural costs. FOR. SCI. 48(2):283–289.

Keywords: Conifer-release; browsing impacts; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; frost damage; multiple-resource management; natural resource management; natural resources; silvicultural costs

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Wildlife Staff Washburn Ranger District, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Box 578 Washburn, WI, 54891, Phone: (715) 373 2667 2: Associate Professor of Wildlife Biology Department of FisheriesWildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, 200 Hodson Hall, 1980 Folwell Ave, St. Paul, MN, 55108, Phone: (612) 624 9281; Fax: (612) 625-5299

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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