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1 November 2007 Initial Effects of Brush Cutting and Shoot Removal on Willow Browse Quality
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Abstract

We examined the initial effects of brush cutting (removal of all aboveground biomass), as well as clipping (removal of current annual shoots) and ungulate browsing (collectively referred to as shoot removal) on the morphology and nutrient quality of Scouler's willow (Salix scouleriana J. Barratt ex Hook.) for ungulates on sites 2 and 4 years after brush cutting. We specifically assessed changes in the biomass, tannin content, digestible energy, and digestible protein of shoots from brush-cut willows relative to shoots of uncut willows to determine how browse plants respond to this form of vegetation management. In winter, the resprouted current annual shoots of willows that had been brush cut were larger in mass and lower in digestible protein than shoots of uncut willows for at least 4 years after brush cutting. Shoots of brush-cut willows were also lower in tannin and digestible energy than the shoots of uncut plants for two winters after brush cutting. In the second winter after brush cutting, shoot biomass decreased and tannin content increased with increasing shoot removal during the previous winter. In the fourth winter after brush cutting, shoot mass increased and digestible energy decreased in shoots with greater shoot removal. Nutrient quality was otherwise unaffected by the amount of shoot removal during the previous winter. Because of the occasional importance of site effects in this study, we recommend that long-term studies maximize the number of sampled sites. Because brush cutting alters the quality of regenerating browse and can affect how ungulates utilize such browse for several years after brush cutting, we further recommend that forest vegetation managers consider potential impacts of brush cutting on ungulate winter range.

Received: 6 December 2005; Accepted: 1 August 2007; Published: 1 November 2007
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