Robert G. Björk
|Publicerad i||Plant Ecology and Diversity|
Institutionen för geovetenskaper
Institutionen för biologi och miljövetenskap
|Ämnesord||Betula nana, browsing, Lepus timidus, Rangifer tarandus, Salix spp., shrub expansion, subarctic, Sweden|
Background: Climate warming has been causing an increase in tall shrub cover around the Arctic, however, mammalian herbivory has been shown to inhibit shrub expansion. Though the effect of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and many other mammals has been widely studied in this context, the role of the mountain hare (Lepus timidus) in subarctic Scandinavia remains unknown. Aims: To quantify browsing from mountain hare and reindeer on tall shrubs in different vegetation types and to investigate differences in shrub preference between the two. Methods: In the summers of 2013 and 2014, we counted signs of browsing by hare and reindeer on tall shrub species in 31 study plots at three alpine locations in the Scandes range, Sweden. Results: Hare browsing was significantly more frequent than that by reindeer in two (dry-mesic heath and dry meadow) out of seven vegetation types studied. Reindeer browsing was significantly higher in the low herb meadow and Långfjället shrub heath. Two shrub species, Betula nana and Salix hastata, were significantly more browsed by hare, while reindeer browsing was significantly higher on S. phylicifolia and S. lapponum. Conclusions: Our results show that mountain hares can cause extensive damage to tall shrubs in the subarctic and may have a stronger impact on shrub communities than previously recognised.