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Succession, herbicides, forage nutrition and elk body condition at Mount St. Helens, Washington

  • Author / Creator
    Geary, Andrew Bruce
  • Concerns have been voiced over recent reductions in forest cutting, herbicide spraying, and past heavy grazing on nutritional resources for elk (Cervus elaphus) and their body condition in the Pacific Northwest. I evaluated the effects of herbicides and herbivory on elk forage in a paired, retrospective vegetation sampling design for early seral (<13yrs) forests around Mount St. Helens (MSH), Washington. Common herbicide regimes reduced elk forage for <3 years after stand initiation and shortened the period of availability of the most nutritious forages prior to forest canopy closure. Herbicide-treated early seral stands provided higher nutritional resources for elk than mid and late-seral stands. Herbivory reduced biomass, primarily of highly palatable shrub species due to reductions in plant height rather than density. I related elk body fat derived from organs collected from hunter-harvested lactating elk in fall 2011 at MSH (n=55) to the habitat surrounding kill locations. Probability of an elk being pregnant was related to body fat. Lactating females were not thinner than non-lactating female elk, and barren non-lactating individuals had the poorest body condition. The most supported model predicting body fat of lactating elk included harvest date, elevation, and elk density.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2014-06
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3B853S1N
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Master's
  • Department
    • Department of Biological Sciences
  • Specialization
    • Ecology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Merrill, Evelyn (Biological Sciences)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Nielsen, Scott (Renewable Resources)
    • Cook, John (National Council for Air and Stream Improvement)
    • Bork, Edward (Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science)