Plant Ecology

, Volume 218, Issue 2, pp 213–223 | Cite as

Herbivory on planted oak seedlings across a habitat edge created by timber harvest

  • Kenneth F. KellnerEmail author
  • Robert K. Swihart


Edge habitats create environmental gradients that affect plant community composition and herbivore behavior. Silvicultural disturbance creates edge habitat with direct (via changes in light) and indirect (via changes in herbivore behavior) consequences for the growth and survival of tree seedlings, and thus, the composition of the future forest stands. Herbivores, particularly ungulates, can be a major limiting factor in oak regeneration, and silvicultural disturbance may alter the abundance or behavior of herbivores following harvest. We measured the severity of herbivory on experimentally planted white (Quercus alba) and black oak (Quercus velutina) seedlings by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), as well as foliar damage from insects, across gradients created by clearcuts in a deciduous forest in Indiana, USA. Overall browse pressure on oaks was low in our study. Nonetheless, spatial variation in herbivory depended on herbivore taxa; herbivory by rabbits was highest inside harvest openings, whereas foliar damage by insects peaked in the forest. Intensity of deer herbivory was constant across the edge. In addition, we observed indirect interactions among herbivore species mediated by a seedling’s browsing history. Herbivore damage by deer was positively related to past browsing by rabbits, and foliar damage from insects was positively related to past browsing by both deer and rabbits. Increasing woody plant competition reduced herbivory on seedlings by both deer and rabbits. Given the lack of spatial variability in deer herbivory and low overall herbivory by rabbits, we suspect that interactions between timber harvesting and herbivory did not have a strong impact on oak seedlings at our study sites.


Oak Quercus Herbivory Insects White-tailed deer Eastern cottontail rabbit 



Rita Belair, Jeremiah Jackson, and Olivia Leonard helped collect data. Mike Saunders, Pat Zollner, Mike Steele, Harmony Dalgleish, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments. This paper is a contribution of the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment, a partnership of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Purdue University, Ball State University, Indiana State University, Drake University, and the Nature Conservancy. Funding for the project was provided by the Indiana Division of Forestry, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University, and the Purdue University Graduate School.

Supplementary material

11258_2016_678_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (131 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 131 kb) Supplement S1 Description of and code used to generate plant competition indices using PCA
11258_2016_678_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (127 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 127 kb) Supplement S2 BUGS model code for the cumulative link model used to analyze the ordinal browse severity data


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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