Eﬀects of forest roads on oak trees via cervid habitat use and browsing
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonForest Ecology and Management. 2018, 424 378-386.
Roads can aﬀect animals in several ways, by aﬀecting movement, space use, foraging behavior and mortality. As roads often have a negative eﬀect on populations of birds and mammals, their eﬀects are important for wildlife management. However, the eﬀect of roads diﬀer between diﬀerent types of roads, and most studies of road ecology have focused on major roads with high traﬃc intensity, whilst eﬀects of smaller unpaved forest roads in northern ecosystems are less known. We investigated the eﬀects of forest roads in a mixed conifer forest in central Europe on cervid habitat use and browsing impact on forest regeneration during the winter season. We found that hunted cervid species avoided forest roads, and that browsing pressure was higher within the core of forest areas rather than close to roads. This led to an increased density of undamaged trees (by browsing) close to forest roads, whilst browsing damages were relatively high in the interior. Hunters often use these forest roads in the hunting season. We suggest that human disturbance creates corridors of fear along forest roads, and that cervids alter their habitat and browse use to avoid humans. This in turn has implications for forest and cervid management. This is the ﬁrst study to document that gravel roads can aﬀect oak trees through modifying cervid behavior. Future studies should use experiments to explore this question further and separate diﬀerent eﬀects of forest roads to understand the mechanisms; edge eﬀects on vegetation, traﬃc, eﬀects on natural predators and human disturbance.Eﬀects of forest roads on oak trees via cervid habitat use and browsing