What role do mammalian herbivores play in the regeneration of mixed forest stands and in understory vegetation dynamics?
We study the effects of herbivores on forest understory dynamics by excluding the different groups of mammals using either 2-m high fences for excluding deer and wild boar, 2-m high fences with openings for allowing only wild boar to enter study plots but not deer, or by small cages excluding small rodents. We use camera traps to monitor the frequency by which forest ungulates visits our study plots, and mark and recapture techniques to survey population fluctuations of small rodents.
We monitor understory vegetation, in particular forest regeneration and the development of competitive plants such as heather, purple moor-grass and bracken. Vegetation surveys are carried out on 20 circular subplots of 12.6 m2 (2.0 m radius) per study plot. A controlled experiment have been set up in order to study how plant-plant interactions such as competition and facilitation can be modified by abiotic (light and water stress) and biotic (herbivory) stress conditions. The controlled experiment is carried out in a plant nursery situated in vicinity to our research laboratories at Nogent-sur-Vernisson, Loiret, France.