How does timing of browsing affect above- and below-ground growth of Betula pendula, Pinus sylvestris and Sorbus aucuparia?


  • Alison J. Hester,

  • Pete Millard,

  • Gordon J. Baillie,

  • Renate Wendler

A. J. Hester, P. Millard, G. J. Baillie and R. Wendler, Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, UK, AB15 8QH (


Plant responses to browsing can affect root and shoot morphology, which is important to subsequent herbivory, nutrient acquisition and competition. This paper examines the above- and below-ground responses of three browse species, with different growth strategies, to simulated browsing damage at different times of year. Saplings were grown in pots in sand culture to enable whole sapling analysis. At winter dormancy or budburst, 50% of previous year's shoots (and associated leaves/buds) were clipped. Subsequent sapling growth and morphology was compared with that of unclipped control saplings. Treatment differences in growth parameters of each species were observed, including changes in branching patterns, shoot lengths, diameters and ratios, leaf sizes and end-of-season bud numbers. Some responses were damage-induced per se; others differed according to timing of damage. Compensatory growth by the two deciduous species (Betula pendula, Sorbus aucuparia) resulted in few biomass differences by the end of the year of damage as compared to controls, but both above- and below-ground growth of clipped Pinus sylvestris was poor, particularly those damaged at budburst, giving strong differences between control, dormant, and budburst clipped saplings.