NUÑEZ martin Andres
Ungulate browsing on introduced pines differs between plant communities: Implications for invasion process and management
ZAMORA-NASCA, LUCÍA B.; RELVA, MARIA A.; NÚÑEZ, MARTÍN A.
WILEY-BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, INC
The effects of herbivory on plant invasions are broadly discussed, and many studies have led to widely debated theories. In particular, the effects of herbivores on pine invasion found in different studies vary; in some cases, they controlled their expansion, and in others, they promoted it. On the other hand, vulnerability to invasion by pines differs between community types. Sites with dunes and bare ground are the most heavily invaded, followed by grasslands, while shrublands and forests are least invaded. Because current evidence is mostly observational, some of the varying responses of pine invasions to herbivory should be examined further through replicated experiments. Here, we address experimentally the extent to which preference for the non-native invasive Pinus contorta by domestic sheep (Ovis aries) depends on the vegetation type. We installed experimental enclosures within two adjacent communities, grassland and shrubland, and in each one, we planted seedlings of P. contorta Douglas and established a sheep density typically recommended for the study area. The number of browsed seedlings, the number and type of branches browsed per seedling, the reduction in height and probability of survival immediately after browsing period were recorded. The number of browsed seedlings and damage to the terminal bud were higher in grassland than in shrubland, while the number of browsed branches per seedling was higher in shrubland than grassland. The reductions in height and probability of survival immediately after browsing were similar in both communities. These results show that moderate levels of sheep herbivory could reduce 20% seedling survival in both communities; nevertheless, the damage patterns differ between them. The sheep browsed more substantial number of seedlings in grasslands than in shrublands. However, if sheep find the seedlings, they damage it more in shrublands. These results suggest that experimental studies comparing communities are important for pine invasion management.