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1 September 2009 Wild Ungulate Herbivory of Willow on Two National Forest Allotments in Wyoming
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Willows (Salix) are important riparian plants and often used to indicate riparian condition. Many herbivores feed on willows, but there is limited information about willow browsing by wildlife except in national parks. This study was conducted to estimate wild ungulate herbivory of willow on two US Forest Service allotments in northern Wyoming and to compare these values to published estimates for national parks. We also compared total annual and seasonal willow utilization by wildlife between sites dominated by willows of different heights. The effects of height category, site, and season on willow utilization were determined with a repeated measures analysis. Four permanent willow utilization transects were established at each of six study sites per allotment on two allotments, in communities supporting planeleaf (Salix planifolia Pursh), Wolf's (Salix wolfii Bebb), Drummond's (Salix drummondiana Barratt ex Hook.), or Eastwood's (Salix eastwoodiae Cock. ex A. Heller) willow. Twenty-five twigs were marked per transect (distributed across 6–12 plants/transect). Lengths of marked twigs were recorded on four dates to estimate willow utilization for winter/spring, summer, and late summer/fall periods. Total annual willow utilization on one allotment (53%) was similar to published estimates for national parks (P  =  0.0864), whereas utilization for the other allotment (58%) was greater (P  =  0.0421) than national parks. Seasonal patterns of willow utilization differed among sites within height categories (P < 0.001). Total annual willow utilization by wildlife also varied by site within height category (P  =  0.0165) but was not greater for short (43–56%) versus tall (59–63%) willow communities. Wildlife browsing of willow in this study equaled, or exceeded, estimates for national parks, where concern has been expressed about willow community conditions. Generalizations about willow utilization for tall and short willow communities are problematic. Management decisions should be based on site-specific information as opposed to generalizations.

Received: 10 October 2008; Accepted: 1 June 2009; Published: 1 September 2009

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