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Observations on bark-stripping by red deer in a Picea sitchensis forest in Western Scotland over a 35-year period

Welch, David, Scott, David
Scandinavian journal of forest research 2017 v.32 no.6 pp. 473-480
Cervus elaphus, Picea sitchensis, bark, felling, forests, monitoring, mortality, tree damage, trees, Scotland
The impact of bark-stripping by red deer on an 1825 ha plantation of Picea sitchensis is reported. Monitoring began in 1978 with initially 6500 trees at 37 sites; by 2014, only 10 sites remained due to felling. Sites became vulnerable to bark-stripping once the trees reached 7 years’ age, and from then until felling at age c. 45 years, incidence rates averaged 1% of the trees damaged yearly. Intense damage at a site in a year (>2% trees damaged) was often followed by intense damage next year, but, on average, 53% of sites were undamaged in a year. Many trees suffered repeat wounding, which reduced final impact by c. 30% compared to the theoretical impact calculated from annual damage and damage duration. The trees bark-stripped were on average smaller than plot mean girths once these means exceeded 20 cm; this had only a minor effect on the final impact since bark-stripped small trees had similar mortality to undamaged small trees. Most wounds (>90%) were small (<180 cm ²) and healed quickly, so were unlikely to develop decay. Larger wounds never healed in less than 8 years, but the proportion healed increased progressively from 10 to 20 years after wounding.