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Influence of browsing damage and overstory cover on regeneration of American beech and sugar maple nine years following understory herbicide release in central Maine

Bose, ArunK., Wagner, RobertG., Roth, BrianE., Weiskittel, AaronR.
New forests 2018 v.49 no.1 pp. 67-85
Acer saccharum subsp. saccharum, Betula alleghaniensis, Fagus grandifolia, basal area, browsing, browsing damage, cutting, glyphosate, hardwood, hardwood forests, landscapes, overstory, pesticide application, shelterwood systems, surfactants, trees, understory, ungulates, Canada, Maine
Northern hardwood stands, notably those with American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh), sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.), and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britton), are abundant across the forested landscapes of northeastern USA and southeastern Canada. Recent studies have reported an increasing dominance of American beech in the understory and midstory of these forests. Beech is a commercially less desirable tree species due to its association with beech-bark disease, and because it commonly interferes with the regeneration of other more desirable tree species. We examined hardwood regeneration characteristics nine years after application of a 3 × 4 factorial combination of glyphosate herbicide (0.56, 1.12, and 1.68 kg ha⁻¹) and surfactant concentrations (0.0, 0.25, 0.5, and 1.0% v v⁻¹) to release sugar maple regeneration from beech-dominated understories using three stands that received shelterwood seed cutting in central Maine. Measurements nine years after treatment showed that glyphosate rate increased both absolute (AD) and relative density (RD) of sugar maple regeneration, but not its height (HT). In contrast, beech AD, RD, and HT were all significantly reduced with increasing glyphosate rate. Post-release browsing by ungulates and a high residual overstory basal area resulted in reduced sugar maple HT. Our results indicated that glyphosate herbicide applied in stands that have been recently shelterwood seed cut can significantly increase the abundance of sugar maple regeneration. However, subsequent browsing damage combined with the negative influence of the residual overstory cover can limit the longer-term benefit of understory herbicide treatments. Subsequent removal of the overstory and browsing-control measures may be needed to promote sugar maple regeneration over beech in similar northern hardwood stands.