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Ecology. 2013 Dec;94(12):2852-60.

A large herbivore triggers alternative successional trajectories in the boreal forest.

Author information

1
Chaire de Recherche Industrielle CRSNG en Aménagement des Ressources de l'Ile d'Anticosti, Département de Biologic and Centre d'Etudes Nordiques, Université Laval, Québec G1V 0A6 Canada. abhidding@gmail.com
2
Chaire de Recherche Industrielle CRSNG en Aménagement des Ressources de l'Ile d'Anticosti, Département de Biologic and Centre d'Etudes Nordiques, Université Laval, Québec G1V 0A6 Canada.

Abstract

Alternative successional trajectories (AST) may result in multiple climax states within an ecosystem when disturbances affect colonization history. In the boreal forest, ungulates have been proposed to drive AST because, under herbivore pressure, preferred species may go extinct and apparent competition may benefit browsing-resistant species. Over a 15-year period following logging, we tested whether deer herbivory altered plant species composition and whether the competitive advantage of resistant species was maintained following herbivore removal. We compared exclosures built immediately after logging with delayed exclosures built eight years later on Anticosti Island, Quebec, Canada. Although the palatable tree Betula papyrifera (paper birch) and some palatable herbs recovered in delayed exclosures, we observed legacies in both tree and herb cover. Woody regeneration in delayed exclosures was dominated by Picea glauca (white spruce), and Poaceae (grasses) were abundant in the field layer. Given that only early-successional species recovered, whereas late-successional broadleaf species and Abies balsamea (balsam fir) remained rare, succession may follow an AST after a limited browsing period during early succession.

PMID:
24597230
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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