This study examined the effect of browsing on skunkbush (Rhus trilobata) and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) following two wildfires in the Missouri Breaks region of Garfield County in east-central Montana, one fire in the 2003 the other in 2006. Study objectives included: 1) Determine the potential height to which skunkbush and chokecherry can grow under local conditions, and 2) Determine if browsing will prevent young plants from attaining that potential height. Because ungulates are attracted to recently burned areas it is important to monitor browse use and regulate browsing pressure to a benign level. We documented the effect of browsing by measurement of plant height and age, browsing level, and LD Index. The most rapid growth occurred in the first two years following the fires. It is predicted that browsing will not prevent skunkbush from growing to its potential height. Three lines of evidence indicate that browsing is likely to prevent many chokecherry plants from growing to potential height. In the first few years following wildfire, the potential effect of browsing is best documented by analysis of height and age relationships and by analysis of stem growth rate. After five years browsing level and LD Index are a more-precise means of documenting the effect of browsing.
Keigley, Richard B. and Undlin, Kent
"Effect of Browsing Following Wildfire in the Missouri Breaks,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 16, Article 7.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol16/iss1/7