Wolves Facilitate the Recovery of Browse-Sensitive Understory Herbs in Wisconsin Forests
July 6, 2019
We asked whether wolf re-colonization would facilitate increased growth and reproduction of three browse-sensitive plant species. We hypothesized plant size and the proportion of reproductive individuals would be lowest in areas with no wolves, intermediate where wolves had been present for 4-6 years, and highest where wolves had been present for 12-13 years. Two plant species exhibited significantly greater reproduction where wolves were present for 12-13 years. Mean leaf size of indicator plants was significantly greater in areas where wolves were present for 12-13 years, as compared with that in areas where wolves were not present or were present for 4-6 years, but the effect size appears small. While the return of wolves to this region is likely to benefit browse-sensitive plant species, our findings suggest that wolf recovery will not generate a trophic cascade of sufficient magnitude to halt or reverse the loss of plant diversity in the Great Lakes region in the near term.
Author(s): Krystle Bouchard, Jane E. Wiedenhoeft, Adrian P. Wydeven, Thomas P. Rooney