Ungulates are attracted to forest openings created by natural disturbance and timber harvesting due to the abundance of high quality browse in these openings. Despite the increased activity and browsing of ungulates in forest openings, the importance of browsing relative to abiotic factors such as light on forest regeneration is often unclear. In southern New England, medium-intensity harvesting is the predominant forest disturbance attracting white-tailed deer and moose. Oaks are the foundation hardwood taxon and predominant timber tree in the region and are in decline. Hence, the effects of ungulate browsing on oak forests are of great interest to ecologists, conservationists and forest and wildlife managers. We sampled tree regeneration and ungulate foraging activity across a range of canopy disturbances (35-90% basal area removed) in 34 stands of the Quabbin and Ware River Watershed Forests. Browsing was very high across the plots with about 80% of red maple and oak stems browsed. Taller stems were generally browsed more frequently than shorter stems. Oak regeneration in the smaller size classes was generally lower in stands with higher percent cover of hay-scented fern. The proportion of browsed red maples and oaks generally increased with increasing density of these taxa. Despite intensive herbivory, oaks appear to be regenerating well with increased light in these partially harvested stands.
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