Compositional and functional trajectories of herbaceous communities after deer density control in clear-cut boreal forests

Authors: Bachand, MariannePellerin, StéphanieTremblay, Jean-PierreCôté, Steeve D.Poulin, Monique
Abstract: Overabundant populations of large herbivores have strong persistent effects on forest composition, structure, and function. However, the mechanism through which plant communities recover their original composition and function after herbivore management remains poorly understood. We assessed the temporal trajectories of the herbaceous communities in Abies balsamea (L.) Mill. and Picea glauca (Moench) Voss stands on Anticosti Island (Quebec, Canada) over 8 years following clear-cutting and deer management. The impact of deer exclusion or reduction to 7.5 and 15 deer·km–2 was compared with benchmark in situ deer densities (27 and 56 deer·km–2). Effects of deer management treatments on plant species and functional trait assemblages over time were assessed using principal response curves. Although complete deer exclusion seemed necessary to modify species composition from that occurring under intense browsing, a reduced density of 7.5 deer·km–2 was sufficient to induce significant changes in functional trait assemblages of regenerating stands. For instance, reduced deer densities favored plants with brightly colored flowers and compound inflorescences pollinated by animals and producing large seeds and fleshy fruits dispersed by animals. We conclude that the boreal forest's herbaceous communities are resilient to chronic browsing when deer population reduction and forest clearcutting are applied in synergy.
Document Type: Article de recherche
Issue Date: 17 February 2015
Open Access Date: 30 June 2016
Document version: AM
This document was published in: Canadian Journal of Forest Research = Revue canadienne de recherche forestière, Vol. 45 (6), 758–763 (2015)
Conseil national de recherches du Canada
Alternative version: 10.1139/cjfr-2014-0533
Collection:Articles publiés dans des revues avec comité de lecture

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