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Impact of feeding damage by the porcupine on western hemlock - Sitka spruce forests of north-coastal British Columbia: 15-year results

Woods, Alex J., Zeglen, Stefan
Canadian journal of forest research = 2003 v.33 no.10 pp. 1983-1989
Abies amabilis, Picea sitchensis, Stereum, Tsuga heterophylla, cambium, dead wood, decay fungi, hosts, mixed forests, species diversity, trees, British Columbia
American porcupine (Erithizon dorsatum L.) feed on the cambial tissues of several tree species. This study assessed feeding by porcupine over a 15-year period on midrotation age western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.) dominated stands on the north coast of British Columbia, Canada. Although four coniferous hosts were available, hemlock was, by far, the most preferred and most seriously impacted. Of 398 hemlock studied, 260 were wounded by porcupine feeding and 86 died by 2000. Porcupine attacked two-thirds of the dead trees, over 82% of which were dominant or codominant, while almost all unattacked dead trees were intermediate or suppressed. This loss resulted in a 14.6% reduction in the proportion of volume per hectare represented by hemlock and an increase in the representation by other species, all of which suffered little or no feeding damage. Results indicate that the final merchantable volume of hemlock expected at rotation age will be lower than projected and will consist mainly of damaged trees of poor form and quality due to decay fungi, such as Stereum sanguinolentum (A. & S. ex Fr.), entering through feeding wounds. Porcupine activity has led to a shift in species composition and volume from a condition where a single species, western hemlock, dominates to a mixed forest consisting of amabilis fir (Abies amabilis (Dougl. ex Loud.) Dougl. ex J. Forbes), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carrière), and western hemlock.