DOI: 10.3390/su16062293 ISSN: 2071-1050

Bark Browsing and Recovery: A Comparative Study between Douglas Fir and Silver Fir Species in the Western Carpathians

Bohdan Konôpka, Vladimír Šebeň, Jozef Pajtík
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction

The foraging behavior of ruminating ungulates significantly impacts forest ecosystems due to their nutritional requirements. This study focuses on inter-specific comparisons of bark browsing (stripping) between Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) and silver fir (Abies alba Mill.). Field measurements were conducted at the previously established research demonstration site “Husárik” in the Javorníky Mountains, north-western Slovakia. We measured the sizes of wounds on stems and assessed the dimensions of unrecovered parts of wounds, subsequently calculating areas of recovered bark patches. Then, the total areas of wounds recovered patches, and unrecovered parts were measured. Additionally, the percentages of wound areas, recovered areas, and unrecovered areas were expressed as proportions relative to the total bark surface. Influencing factors such as the position of wounds along the vertical stem profile and stem diameter class were analyzed using two- and three-way ANOVA followed by Fisher’s LSD test. The results demonstrate the susceptibility of both tree species to bark browsing by ruminating ungulates, primarily red deer (Cervus elaphus L.) in our study site. Douglas fir exhibited slightly less intense browsing compared to silver fir, while silver fir had a slightly higher recovery rate. Specifically, 17.0% of the bark surface in Douglas fir and 21.5% in silver fir were browsed. The proportions of recovered areas on wounds were 62.5% and 69.6% in Douglas fir and silver fir, respectively. Regarding the vertical stem profile, the most intense browsing occurred at a height of 101–125 cm from the ground level, with rates of 40.7% in Douglas fir and 47.0% in silver fir. Browsing intensity showed negligible variation among diameter classes, which were classified as up to 35 mm, 35–50 mm, and over 50 mm. Our findings suggest that, as an introduced species, Douglas fir is not a suitable substitute for other commercially significant tree species in supporting sustainable forestry in European countries where ruminating ungulates are overabundant.

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