Grouseberry (Vaccinium scoparium Leiberg ex Coville) fruit production in forest openings in Banff National Park, Alberta
Keywords:Banff National Park, fruit production, Grouseberry, prescribed burn, photosynthetically active radiation, solar radiation, Vaccinium scoparium, wildfire
AbstractGrouseberry (Vaccinium scoparium Leiberg ex Coville) is an abundant dwarf shrub in the understory of many areas of subalpine forest in Banff National Park and has the potential to produce fruit important for wildlife. However, the suppression and prevention of wildfires, which began in the early 1900s in the park, have reduced fire-dependent shrubland and open forest and increased the extent of closed, mature forest. Because canopy closure is typically associated with decreased fruit production by understory shrubs, the decline in fire disturbance may be reducing Grouseberry fruit production. To quantify this effect, we measured Grouseberry fruit production under various forest canopies at 10 sites in Banff during 2004–2012. We measured site openness by modeling photosynthetically active direct solar radiation (dPAR) adjusted for overshadowing by topography and coniferous foliage. We found a positive relation between Grouseberry fruit production and dPAR in 2006 and 2010–2012, but not in 2008 or 2009, the 2 years of lowest fruit production; data were lacking for 2004, 2005, and 2007. We also recorded high Grouseberry fruit densities beginning 5 years after fire removed the forest canopy in four prescribed burns conducted during 2001: fruit production was 3.3 to more than 20 times that in adjacent mature forests in 5 of the 6 years analyzed. This study shows the potential ecological benefits of both prescribed burns and wildfire in upper subalpine forests where Grouseberry is widespread, but fruit production is low under the forest canopy.
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