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Evaluation of Techniques to Protect Aspen Suckers from Ungulate Browsing in the Black Hills

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Excessive browsing by cattle (Bos taurus L.) and wild ungulates, particularly elk (Cervus elaphus L.), sometimes inhibits growth and maturity of quaking aspen (Populustremuloides Michx.) suckers in Western North America. In areas where aspen stands are in poor condition or declining, protecting suckers from ungulates may be necessary. This study compared the utility of livestock fences, complete wildlife exclosures, barriers created from slash debris, and tree hinging during 2004 and 2005 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. All of the barriers significantly reducedpercentage browsing of aspen suckers compared with the pretreatment average (78%) and posttreatment control (79%). Slash treatments andlivestock fences decreased ungulate browsing by 19%, hinge treatments decreased it by 39%, and wildlife fences eliminated nearly allincidences of sucker browsing. The average length removed per terminal stem for aspen suckers decreased from 20.8 to 14.4 cm across all treatments. After 1 year, the mean number of suckers above 100 cm height in both the hinge and slash treatments were significantly greater than both the fence treatments and control. Data showed that autumn and winter browsing was primarily by wild ungulates. Slash barriers can replace livestock fences where cattle affect aspen suckers. Hinge barriers are more useful than both slash barriers and livestock fences in areas where wild ungulates are the primary browsers.
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Keywords: hinging; quaking aspen; restoration; wildfire; wildlife

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-10-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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