Deciduous tree occurrence and large herbivore browsing in multiscale perspectives

University dissertation from Karlstad : Karlstad University

Abstract: Aspen ( Populus tremula), rowan (Sorbus auquparia) and sallow (Salix caprea) are deciduous tree species of low economic value for forestry and contribute to biodiversity of boreal forests. The species are rare in managed forest landscapes, and severely browsed by moose. Their recruitment needs to increase to meet requirements of sustainable forestry to factors that affect occurrence need to be indentified. Paper I is an exploratory study on distribution of these species in relation to natural and cultural factors. In paper II moose browsing on saplings, in young forests and the influence of the landscape at three spatial scales: stand (8.6 ± 0.8 SE ha), winter home range of moose (10 km2) and annual home range of moose (25 km2). Presence of these rare species was depending on a multitude of factors acting at different spatial scales. The most important variables were soil quality, successional stage, and ownership at the stand scale and area of deciduous forest at the landscape scale. Moreover, saplings occurred at low densities in young forests (paper II) and most interestingly, saplings occurred most in middle-aged forests (20-80 years) and less than expected in younger forests (<20y) (Paper I). Browsing intensity on the different species corresponded with moose food preference and annual home range scale was most relevant for understanding browsing. Browsing on rowan was highest where the volume of deciduous food and overall young forest area were low. Browsing on birch increased when pine volume and mean patch size of young forest increased, whereas browsing on aspen was negatively related to the same variables. Thus, my results strengthen the idea that food selection is a scale-dependent process and that trade-offs between food and cover may exist for moose. Moreover, I conclude that the presence of deciduous species was a result mainly of soil quality, forest management intensity, landscape context and that the distribution of food for moose at landscape scales similar to or larger than their home range may be useful for predicting browsing on the stand scale. I propose that deciduous forests may be valuable predictors of regeneration potential in the forested landscape, and that understory deciduous sapling in middle-aged forests may be important to promote restoration and conservation actions.