Selectivity and context dependence of Corsican red deer browsing in a Mediterranean coppice system
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Agenzia Forestas, Servizio Tecnico della Direzione Generale, Viale Merello n. 86, 09123, Cagliari, Italy
Online publication date: 2017-08-04
Publication date: 2017-10-23
Corresponding author
Paolo Casula   

Agenzia Forestas, Servizio Tecnico della Direzione Generale, Viale Merello n. 86, 09123, Cagliari, Italy
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2017;28(2):157-164
To manage potentially contrasting objectives such as ungulate conservation, habitat conservation, and forest harvesting, information about browsing patterns on vegetative regeneration of woody plants is needed. Here, we study browsing patterns of Corsican red deer on vegetative regeneration of coppices in a Mediterranean Holm oak forest. Within the forest management plan, the proportion of browsed shoots per plant was yearly monitored. Regression models were applied to estimate browsing probability of plants (BrY) and of shoots (Br), and evaluate factors though to affect red deer feeding behaviour, such as plant identity (Sp), plant height (H), years from coppicing (Y fC), density of palatable (Dp) and unpalatable plants (Du), and presence of wild boars (WB). Browsing rates were unrelated to relative abundance of species (RA), and strongly affected by Sp, suggesting high feeding selectivity of Corsican red deer. High browsing rates were observed on Quercus ilex (RA=0.26; BrY=0.81, Br=0.41), and Phillyrea latifolia (RA=0.07; BrY=0.89, Br=0.63). Early successional shrubs such as Arbutus unedo (RA=0.39; BrY=0.04, Br=0.01), Erica arborea (RA=0.14; BrY=0.06, Br=0.01), Cistus monspeliensis (RA=0.08; BrY=0.05, Br=0.01), and Cistus salvifolius (RA=0.05; BrY=0.10, Br=0.04), were very seldom browsed. Browsing probability of palatable species decreased with Y fC and H, and was affected by Dp and Du. WB did not seem to affect browsing probability. The effect of plant density on browsing was explained in terms of relative palatability and associational resistance, which need to be considered in forest management plans of mixed forests under browsing pressure. To improve the biological understanding underlying forest management decisions, we recommend managers monitoring browsing impact on woody plants through space and time within plans of sustainable harvesting.
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