Simulated browsing treatments were imposed on an important browse species of the North American moose (Alces alces L.) to see if the development and extent of subsequent stem dieback in trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) could be used to determine the time of browsing during the growing season. Two hundred naturally growing aspen saplings of similar size and form were randomly selected in a 20-ha area near the endowment lands of the University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. Plants were randomly assigned to treatment categories so that the apical meristems of 50 plants each were assigned to a control or were clipped on one of the following dates 6 weeks apart: 1 June, 16 July, and 30 August 2005. The leader of each aspen was clipped and dieback was left to progress until the onset of winter dormancy. Our results showed that the earlier the simulated browsing occurs in the growing season, the greater the length of stem dieback, up to the maximum of the subapical axillary node below the point of clipping. The average rate at which dieback progressed varied between treatments and decreased throughout the growing season. Our results suggest that the ratio of the actual length of stem dieback to the overall length of stem between the clip point and the subapical axillary node serves as a good indicator for estimating the time at which aspen meristems have been browsed during the growing season.
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Vol. 60 • No. 5