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Understory vegetation dynamics and tree regeneration as affected by deer herbivory in temperate hardwood forests

Abstract : Plant competition and deer browsing are two main factors which limit tree recruitment. We examined natural tree-recruitment processes under continuous-tree-cover management. Changes in plant communities and tree regeneration were monitored over an eight-year period at two different sites in a temperate hardwood forest in the North-East of France. We used paired control plot (unfenced areas, free access to deer) and exclosures (fenced areas, excluding deer) at both sites. Shade-tolerant browsing-tolerant opportunistic species (beech, Fagus sylvatica at site 1 and bramble, Rubus spp. at site 2) were present in low numbers at the beginning of the study. We found that these species used a sit-and-wait strategy, waiting for opportunities to proliferate (thinning and deer exclusion). In the exclosure at site 1, beech proliferate slowly. In the exclosure at site 2, bramble proliferated enough during the first two growing seasons to prevent tree recruitment. Thus, fencing encouraged beech sapling or bramble growth, and this growth in turn was detrimental to the richness and diversity of the plant community. The two study cases presented show that both plant competition and deer browsing can be problematic for tree recruitment. Our results further suggest that excluding deer is not sufficient to enhance the growth of browse-sensitive and moderately shade-tolerant tree species such as oaks (Quercus petraea and Q. robur).
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Submitted on : Saturday, May 16, 2020 - 1:09:30 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, November 23, 2021 - 3:08:02 PM

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L. Laurent, Anders Mårell, Philippe Balandier, H. Holveck, S. Said. Understory vegetation dynamics and tree regeneration as affected by deer herbivory in temperate hardwood forests. iForest: Biogeosciences and Forestry, Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology, 2017, 10, pp.837-844. ⟨10.3832/ifor2186-010⟩. ⟨hal-02606839⟩

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