Reduction of herbivore density as a tool for reduction of herbivore browsing on palatable tree species
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Browsing of overabundant free-living herbivores often limits the natural as well as artificial regeneration of forest in Central-European Mountains. The aim of the study was to assess the efficiency of the extensive reductions of herbivore populations for protection of forest regeneration in preferred areas. We analysed the relationship between the intensity of shoot browsing and relative density of herbivores in viewpoint of natural regeneration of secondary mountain spruce stands with low proportion of broadleaved trees in Králický Sněžník Reserve (Czech Republic). The distribution of seasonally migrating herbivores was established by counting faecal pellet groups (standing crop method) in growing season. The intensity of browsing of spruce, beech and rowan was assessed using the proportion of browsed shoots on individual tree sapling. Density of red deer was re-counted from the number of pellet groups and it was 15–56 individual/km2. The intensity of spruce browsing was low in the whole area in all seasons. In general, the intensity of rowan and beech shoot browsing was high in the whole area. There were no correlations between deer density and browsing intensity of rowan (browsing was severe in all plots). We conclude that the natural regeneration of attractive trees and shrubs is nearly impossible in habitats where proportion of these food items is too small, even when the density of herbivores is low. Reduction of herbivores density is useful for protecting spruce and other tree species with low preference by herbivores. Forest managers should take into account the high palatability of deciduous tree species and distribution of herbivores on localities. Preference of localities is often based on grasses in the food supply. Regeneration of highly palatable tree species requires both low density of herbivores and sufficient protection of saplings.