Simplicity is Key
Monday, April 24, 2017
Restoration Protocols for Non-regenerating Forests Degraded by Overabundant Herbivores
Moose are iconic symbols of the Boreal Forest – surprisingly however they are not native to the island of Newfoundland! They also lack the normal predators, wolves, which keep them in check in the mainland part of the Boreal Forest. So without predators, the moose population exploded and the result was a severely over-browsed forest. The moose browsed the forest so badly that all the young trees were lost and so the forest could not regenerate in Terra Nova National Park and surrounding areas in Newfoundland.
“The rapid increase of the introduced moose population in the 1990s, damaged balsam fir forests and threatened its unique faunal and floral inhabitants in our park.“ says Janet Feltham, ecologist at Terra Nova National Park.
National Parks are tasked with managing their lands for “Ecological Integrity”, which means they should be healthy and functioning ecosystems. But the National Park had a problem with loss of balsam fir forests – that is where a partnership was born! The goal was to preserve biodiversity and get the forest to regenerate, and the best way to do that was to use science-based restoration techniques.
National Parks are tasked with managing their lands for “Ecological Integrity”, which means they should be healthy and functioning ecosystems. But the National Park had a problem with loss of balsam fir forests – that is where a partnership was born. The goal was to preserve biodiversity and get the forest to regenerate, and the best way to do that was to use science-based restoration techniques.
MSc student Louis Charron and his supervisor, Dr. Luise Hermanutz worked in partnership with Terra Nova National Park staff to evaluate the actions required to restore the balsam fir – a rarely used species in restoration actions.
The newly published study shows that forest regeneration is possible, a great step forward for the National Park that has seen the area of its balsam fir forest suffer greatly in the last decades. “The survival and growth after two years was excellent, even in the harsher environment of the park.” says Mr. Charron, “Balsam fir can now be added to the species tool box for forest restoration”.
A number of experimental treatments were tested to figure out which would result in the best growth and survival of balsam fir seedlings including removing surrounding vegetation above and below the ground in different combinations. Charron notes, "Another aspect we considered was the financial cost and ease of planting. We planted 10,000 seedlings to test which approach was the best in terms of survival, growth and cost. We followed the seedling progress for two years.
"We found that more work isn't always the best solution!"
The team discovered the best way to plant the seedlings is directly into the vegetation without any preparation. These seedlings had lower levels of moose browsing and best growth and survival. This method is also the easiest and cheapest way to plant. “We are very pleased with the results – we can now move ahead with replanting our degraded forests knowing we have good science-based knowledge to back up our management strategies” commented Kirby Tulk, Resource Conservation Manager at Terra Nova National Park.
Biology Department, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Citation: Louis Charron | Luis Hermanutz, Simplicity is key: restoration protocols for nonregenerating forests degraded by overabundant herbivores Restoration Ecology 25:3 (May 2017) 10.1111/rec.12459
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Restoration Ecology is the Society’s bi-monthly scientific and technical peer-reviewed journal published Edited by a distinguished international panel, the journal addresses global concerns and communicates them to researchers and practitioners throughout the world
The Society for Ecological Restoration is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and re-establishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.
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