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Effects of browsing on recruitment and mortality of European aspen (Populus tremula L.)

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High browsing pressure may reduce or halt regeneration of browsing-prone tree species. In this study, exclosures were used to quantify the effects of browsing on vital demographic parameters in European aspen (Populus tremula L.) stands. The experiment focused on stands located in managed forest landscape with densities of 0.85 moose (Alces alces L.)km-2. Other herbivores such as mountain hare (Lepus timidus L.) were present at densities common for this region and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus L.) at low densities. Recruitment and mortality of aspen ramets were recorded before and after the growing season, and over four consecutive years. Seven to 19% of the ramets within browsing reach were browsed annually. No differences were found in recruitment or mortality attributable to browsing per se. Instead, there were large among-stand variability in vital population parameters unrelated to browsing incidence. In general, aspen stands with high ramet density showed higher recruitment rates than stands with low ramet density. There was substantial variability in self-replacement capability unrelated to ecological factors. The results suggest that more attention should be given to finding and managing stands with high capacity for suckering, as these stands may have a disproportionate impact on aspen recruitment at the landscape scale.
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Keywords: Environmental factors; landscape; moose; mountain hare; stand

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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