Life history strategies of aspen (Populus tremula L.) and browsing effects: a literature review
Aspen (Populus tremula L.) is associated with high biodiversity and provides high-quality forage for wild browsing herbivores in boreal and temperate ecosystems. The long-term persistence of aspen in many regions in Scandinavia has been questioned due to the historically high browsing levels. We here review the basic ecology, genetics and life histories of aspen in a browsing context. Browsers can suppress the regeneration of aspen and the relatively short lifespan of the trees result in frequent regeneration cycles and concurrent exposure to browsers. In the long term, browsing may reduce recruitment and delay maturation, increase mortality and ultimately cause a decline of aspen. Norwegian forest inventory data indicate a reduced recruitment rate of young aspen (diameter at breast height; 60–79 mm) during the last 25 years, but it is unclear whether this is all due to browsing. Regeneration may also be hampered by lack of disturbance. Recent genetic studies have shown that aspen may have substantial regeneration by seeds, which allows for effective migration. The main conclusion of this review is that although browsing may affect demography and local abundance of aspen, it is very unlikely to lead to the eradication of the species in Fennoscandia.
Myking, T.; Bohler, F.; Austrheim, G.; Solberg, E.J. 2011. Life history strategies of aspen (Populus tremula L.) and browsing effects: a literature review. Forestry 84(1): 61-71.