The University of Arizona

True mountain mahogany community and shrub size responses to browsing.

D. Turley, B.A. Roundy, S.C. Walker


True mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus Raf.) provides nutritional winter forage for big game species in the mountain brush zone. To determine browsing effects, animal use, percent vegetation cover, and shrub dimensions were measured inside and outside exclosures up to 7 years old on 4 sites on the North Slope of the Unita Mountains, and at an exclosure > 50 years old in the Wasatch Mountains, Utah. Utilization was measured in an associated twig demography study. Winter big game use increased from 1997 to 1999 at the North Slope. Utilization of annual growth ranged from 21 to over 300%, depending on the site and year and did not necessarily parallel animal use. Greater than 100% utilization of annual growth resulted when previous years' wood was browsed. There was little difference in vegetation cover, species richness, and diversity inside and outside the exclosures, but mountain mahogany had lower cover and smaller size outside than inside the exclosures at 3 North Slope sites. Mahogany cover was similar, but width and breadth of shrubs were smaller outside than inside the > 50-year old exclosure in the Wasatch Mountains. Browsed shrubs maintained their size from 1995 to 1999 at the North Slope, despite over 100 % utilization of annual growth at 3 of the sites in at least 1 year. True mountain mahogany is highly tolerant of winter browsing, and can compensate for > 100% utilization of annual growth by increased growth during wet years. However, continued use of over 100 % of annual growth could reduce cover, shrub size, and forage production during years of lower resource availability. A practical management approach is to monitor cover and size of shrubs inside and outside well-placed exclosures across the winter range over time, and reduce herd numbers as appropriate to allow browsed shrubs to maintain or reach the size of unbrowsed shrubs when their growth has leveled off after a few years of exclusion.



Utah;canopy;Cercocarpus montanus;browsing;wildlife food habits;plant characteristics

Full Text: