This paper discusses the methods of detecting and assessing deer and elk browse problems, and describes possible methods of protecting seedlings from browse damage using physical protection devices. The publication is intended for use by foresters and forest technicians concerned with minimizing deer and elk browse damage to commercial trees.
Deer (Odocoileus spp.) and elk (Cerous elaphus) are species native to British Columbia's forests. Both species tend to graze primarily on herbaceous and woody species of the early serial stages of plant succession. Openings in the forest canopy, as a result of disturbances such as blowdown or logging, provide an ample supply of forage material and are therefore common grazing grounds for deer and elk throughout the year. When preferred forage stock becomes depleted, the browsing pressure on planted and naturally regenerated seedlings increases dramatically.
Damage to coniferous seedlings by deer and elk usually occurs in three ways:
- terminal and primary laterals are browsed off, eliminating or severely retarding seasonal height growth and, in some cases, the seedling is completely eaten;
- fine roots can be broken as deer or elk pull on seedlings during browsing (Schaap and DeYoe, 1986), with newly planted seedlings sometimes being pulled from the ground; and
- continuous browsing of the terminal stem, With the result of increased probability for the seedling to form a multiple stem, reducing the commercial value of the tree.
The effects of excessive browsing on plantation seedlings include:
- extending the time for seedlings to reach green-up or free growing height;
- a reductio.n in overall wood quality as over-browsed trees tend to be stunted with knotty stems; and
- a decrease in seedling survival making it difficult to attain target stocking density levels.
It is important to consider the potential for deer or elk browsing when preparing a silviculture prescription (SP). The cost of most seedling protection methods is high and this cost must be considered when selecting the species that will be planted. In some cases alternative strategies, such as prescribing a lower density of a susceptible species and protecting these seedlings, will guarantee a component of the species on the site at an acceptable cost.
Booth, Ian, Henigman, John. 1996. Seedling barrier protection from deer and elk browse. British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Silviculture Report
Topic: FLNRORD Research Program
Keywords: Seedling, Performance
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