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Long-term responses of ecosystem components to stand thinning in young lodgepole pine forest IV. Relative habitat use by mammalian herbivores



Long-term responses of ecosystem components to stand thinning in young lodgepole pine forest IV. Relative habitat use by mammalian herbivores



Forest Ecology and Management 240(1-3): 32-41



Pre-commercial thinning (PCT) is a silvicultural practice that can provide diverse understory and overstory vegetation conditions. We tested the hypothesis that relative habitat use by snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and moose (Alces alces) would increase in response to enhanced abundance of herbs and shrubs, and species diversity and structural diversity of conifers, in heavily thinned (= 1000 stems/ha) stands, at 12-15 years post-thinning. Replicate study areas were located near Penticton, Kamloops, and Prince George in south-central British Columbia, Canada. Each study area had three young pine stands thinned to densities of [approximately]500 stems/ha (low), [approximately]1000 stems/ha (medium), and [approximately]2000 stems/ha (high), with an unthinned young pine and old-growth pine stand for comparison. Relative habitat use, based on counts of fecal pellets and pellet-groups, was similar among the five treatment stands for hares (P = 0.24), deer (P = 0.23), and moose (P = 0.16). However, low-density stands ([approximately]500 stems/ha) had ca. 3-20 times as many deer pellet-groups, and ca. 2-4 times as many moose pellet-groups, than other stands. Low-density stands had significantly greater canopy openness, volume of shrubs 2 m, and horizontal hiding cover 1.6 m than other treatments. Relative habitat use by deer and moose was positively related to understory characteristics such as enhanced abundance of forage and security cover. These results support our hypothesis that deer and moose responded positively to enhanced volume of herbs and shrubs as well as to species diversity and structural diversity of conifers and overall vegetation in heavily thinned (=1000 stems/ha) stands at 12-15 years post-thinning. Our results suggest that ungulate management would be enhanced if greater emphasis was placed on forage enhancement throughout the year, which differs from current management recommendations which tend to focus on winter range and snow-interception cover.

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Accession: 013254071

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DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2006.11.020



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