Impacts of moose (Alces alces) browsing on paper birch (Betula papyrifera) morphology and potential timber quality
Silva Fennica 45(2): 227236
Although moose browsing effects on the growth and morphology of birch are well studied, effects of moose browsing on potential timber quality of birch have received little attention. Here, an assessment was made of the impacts of moose (Alces alces L.) damage to Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh.) trees from a 20-year old clear cut area in a sub-boreal spruce forest within the Aleza Lake Research Forest, near Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. Specifically, differences in overall tree architecture and in the internal characteristics of trees that had been severely damaged and suppressed by moose winter browsing were compared to birch trees that had not been damaged by moose in this way and were considered free-to-grow. The average stem diameter, number of annular growth rings, and height of stem breaks made by moose on suppressed birches at the point of breakage was 17.9 ± 6.6 mm, 4.6 ± 1.2, and 141.8 ± 32.0 cm, respectively. Stem diameters and the heights above-the-ground of stem breaks made by moose during sequential breakage events were not significantly different (all p ≥ 0.05) from one another. Decay was significantly (all p ≤ 0.001) more extensive in trees where branches had been broken off by moose than in trees with no breaks or where breaks were from unknown agents. Suppressed birches were significantly (p = 0.048) more exposed (farther from their nearest tree neighbor) when compared to birches that were free-to-grow. The distance from birch trees to species-specific neighbors (of any species) did not differ (all p ≥ 0.05) between suppressed and free-to-grow birches. Suppressed birches damaged from intense browsing and stem breakage were significantly (≤ 0.001) farther away from other birches showing signs of slight to moderate browsing than free-to-grow birches were from similar conspecifics. Because moose appear to impact the potential wood quality of birch, forest managers should consider the impacts that browsing and stem breakage can have on birch timber where these trees co-occur with and are eaten by moose.
Received 14 January 2011 Revised Accepted 23 March 2011