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2018 | 79 |
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Influence of herbivory pressure on the growth rate and needle morphology of Taxus baccata L. juveniles

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Damage by herbivore grazing negatively influences the development of subsequent forest generations. Little is known about the long-term impacts of grazing and interactions between grazing and light conditions on sapling growth after the cessation of herbivory impact. In this study, Taxus baccata saplings were grown over a period of four years in artificial shading at 2, 8, 30 and 100% of full sunlight (described as initial light). These saplings were planted in fenced and unfenced plots in a mixed forest in Poland. After six years with no protection from grazing, deer pressure was eliminated by fencing. In this study, we analysed sapling growth and needle morphology five years after deer suppression. Overall, grazing had a negative significant impact on the growth rate and needle morphology of T. baccata saplings. Saplings damaged by herbivores had a height increment approximately one-third that of non-grazed saplings. The grazed yew saplings had a lower needle area and length and a higher specific leaf area (SLA) than non-grazed saplings. Initial and current light conditions did not influence tree growth rates and needle morphology. However, we found positive correlations between sapling height and both leaf area and leaf length and a negative correlation between sapling height and SLA. Browsed yews also had a greater tendency to form polycormic (multi-stemmed) individuals. Lower growth rates, smaller needles and polycormic stems indicate a strategy of “escaping” herbivory pressure even five years after elimination of deer pressure.
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