Short-term Change in Forest Metrics at Grand Portage National Monument, Minnesota
Keywords:Boreal forest, browse ecological monitoring, forest change, Grand Portage National Monument, White-tailed Deer
Forest health monitoring programs can provide routine feedback of key indices and periodic updates of ecosystem health. A forest monitoring program was initiated at Grand Portage National Monument in 2007 with plots resampled in 2014. Grand Portage National Monument is within the southern boreal forest and the suitable habitat for most of its common overstorey species is expected to shift northward and out of the park as climate change progresses. We assessed short-term change in forest health on 20 plots by specifically evaluating change in overstorey density and basal area, forest community composition, and White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) browsing impacts on the herbaceous layer. Pooled across all overstorey species, both density and basal area increased between sampling events, but neither differed among habitats. For individual species of interest, responses were varied, although balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) increased in both density and basal area over the seven years. The frequency of quadrats supporting at least one preferred browse species did not differ between sampling years although this was greater in upland plots (81%) compared with wet mesic sites (66%). The effect of sampling year on species’ richness depended on habitat. In 2007, richness was higher in upland plots, although in 2014, richness was higher in wet mesic plots. Pooled across both sampling years, modified floristic quality index was greater in wet mesic plots. Our work demonstrates the increasing dominance of A. balsamea at Grand Portage National Monument and that notable differences in forest metrics can be observed over relatively short times.
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