Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) is a major component of Intermountain forest ecology and relies on periodic disturbance, such as prescribed fire, to perpetuate. On the Manti-LaSal National Forest in central Utah, both big game and cattle depend on forage growing on forested lands, which has contributed to intense conflict. Understanding the effects of browsers on recently burned aspen stands is critical to managing the regeneration of these communities. This study measured the effects of cattle and big game foraging on regenerating aspen communities. Three study sites were selected from a 142-ha prescribed burn conducted in an aspen-conifer stand on the Ferron District of the Manti-LaSal National Forest in 1989. Each of the three study sites was subdivided into four areas and randomly assigned one of the following treatments: big game and cattle exclusion (No Use), big game exclusion (Cattle Use), cattle exclusion (Big Game Use), and open access (Dual Use). Vegetation was sampled in 1991–1994, 1999, and 2005. Density, biomass, height, nested frequency, and cover of aspen suckers were measured. Nested frequency and cover were measured for all other species encountered. Aspen cover, density, and biomass showed a significant year-by-treatment interaction (P < 0.05). Aspen and understory regeneration responded similarly to No Use, Cattle Use, and Big Game Use. Dual Use resulted in lower (P < 0.05) aspen regeneration and more annual, weedy species in the understory. In 2005, Dual Use aspen cover (4%) was lower (P < 0.05) than the other three treatments: Big Game Use (25%), Cattle Use (31%), and No Use (34%). Controlled burning to regenerate aspen will be most successful under light stocking rates for both big game and cattle to allow suckers to develop beyond the browse line (>2 meters).
Rangeland Ecology and Management
Vol. 68 • No. 4
Vol. 68 • No. 4