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Ungulate Browsers and Other Wildlife

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[Moose near exclosures]Herbivory is a fundamental ecological interaction, and large mammalian herbivores – via foraging, trampling, stem breakage, and seed dispersal – play an important and often complex role in shaping the structure and composition of terrestrial ecosystems including temperate forests. The density and movements of ungulate and other wildlife populations are also acutely influenced by human and natural disturbances, land use/land cover, and climate.

Ungulate Browsers and Forest Dynamics

Harvard Forest is located in a relatively small region of the temperate forest where the range of moose (Alces americanus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) overlap. This setting provides an opportunity to study:

  • The impacts of two ungulate species (Deer and Moose) on vegetation using a novel experimental design:
    • Full exclosure (excludes all ungulates - no browsing
    • Partial exclosure (excludes moose, allows browsing by deer)
    • Unfenced plot (enables browsing by both moose and deer
  • See Articles in PLOS one and Ecology and Evolution
  • in hemlock stands disturbed by simulated hemlock woolly adelgid outbreak and salvage logging. See Article in Forest Ecology and Management
  • on soil carbon, soil respiration , and root biomass

Wildlife Movement and Habitat Use

The Forest is also located in a landscape of relatively high human density and associated development, inspiring additional study of:

  • the response of moose, black bear, and other wildlife to current and projected land use/land cover using GPS collars and GIS mapping

         [Female Collared Bear]       [GPS locations of an individual moose in the Northeast Quabbin landscape]

Domestic Livestock

Additional research on large herbivores occurs in:

    • the Harvard Farm with studies on impact of multiple levels of domestic cattle grazing on pasture vegetation and other biota.  Read Summer student blog.
    • the paleoecology lab where fungal spores associated with large mammal dung are analyzed in sediment cores to reconstruct historic levels of grazing. See Article in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

Associated Researchers

Audrey Barker Plotkin
Walter Carson (University of Pittsburgh)
Steve DeStefano (USGS Massachusetts Cooperative Research Unit)
Ed Faison (Highstead)
Adrien Finzi (Boston University)
David Foster
Wyatt Oswald
Dave Wattles (Mass Division of Fish and Wildlife)
Kathy Zeller (USGS Massachusetts Cooperative Research Unit)

View all Harvard Forest researchers


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