Herbicides and Herbivory Interactions Affect Plant Communities and Tree Survival
Land management practices often directly alter vegetation structure and composition, but the degree to which ecological processes such as herbivory are affected is poorly understood.
To evaluate whether intensive forest management and large herbivores have compounding effects on early-seral plant communities and tree survival and growth, researchers established deer and elk exclosures nested within management treatments which included light herbicide, moderate herbicide, intensive herbicide treatments and a no-spray control. Herbivory and herbicide applications interacted to drive vegetation structure, composition, and tree establishment, with herbivory effects most evident at intermediate herbicide treatments. In the light herbicide treatment, herbivory suppressed shrub growth following herbicide treatment, which improved planted conifer seedling survival. Results also demonstrated that intensive forest management alters large herbivore foraging selectivity and subsequent plant-herbivore interactions, which can influence understory plant communities and tree growth in later stages of forest development.
Stokely, T.D., Verschuyl, J.V., Hagar, J.C., Betts, M.G., 2018, Herbicides and herbivory interact to drive plant community establishment and tree survival: Ecological Applications, p. online, https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1777