The role of moose as a disturbance factor in managed boreal forests
We review the interactions between moose (Alces alces) and native tree species in Fennoscandia. The Fennoscandian boreal forests have been intensively managed for wood production over decades. Moose population density is also relatively high in these northern forests. Forest management affects habitat characteristics and food resources from regeneration to final harvest, with the most significant effects occurring early in the stand development. The plant-animal interactions found in such a situation may be different from what has been observed in natural boreal forests with low densities of moose (e.g. in North America). The strong focus on Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in forest regeneration in conjunction with a homogenisation of the landscape structure by clear-cutting has favoured moose. Forest development is controlled by man from regeneration to final harvest, and in relation to human-induced disturbances the disturbance by moose is relatively small, but occurs on different spatial levels. At the landscape level, the most prominent effects of moose seem to be suppression and/or redistribution of preferred browse species. At the forest stand level moose primarily induce spatial heterogeneity by browsing patchily and exploiting existing gaps. At the tree level, moose damage trees and lower timber quality, but also create substrate types (e.g. dead and dying wood) valuable for many organisms. Co-management of moose and forest requires good monitoring programmes for both plants and animals, as well as extensive ecological knowledge on the relations between moose and their food plants on different spatial levels.
Received 27 October 2000 Accepted 11 October 2001 Published 31 December 2002