Recent studies of ungulates have revealed that selective foraging seems to be an important mechanism by which they can affect the structure and species composition of the plant community, and thus quantity (dry mass) and quality (chemical composition) of litter available for decomposers. Such changes in litter production may be especially important in N-limited systems like boreal forests. We chose moose (Alces alces) as study species to investigate this mechanism. Moose browse mainly in the tree and shrub layers year round, and because of their wide distribution and often high population densities, they can have a significant effect on litter production of trees and shrubs in Swedish boreal forests. The effects of herbivores may also vary along productivity gradients. We therefore simulated browsing and urine and fecal deposition corresponding to 4 different moose densities in exclosures along a pre-existing forest productivity gradient. Both litter quantity (g dry mass per m and year) and contributions of C and N (g dry mass per m2 and year) decreased with increasing level of simulated moose density. High moose densities over extended time can therefore reduce N contributions to soil and therefore eventually reduce site productivity in Swedish boreal forests. This effect of moose was mainly a result of decreased litter quantity, because contradictory to studies from North America, litter quality (C:N ratio and N contribution per mass unit of litter) was not affected by level of simulated moose density.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||10|
|State||Published - Feb 2005|