Browsing Rangeland Ecology & Management, Volume 62, Number 6 (November 2009) by Authors
Can Regeneration of Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) be Restored in Declining Woodlands in Eastern Montana?Lesica, Peter (Society for Range Management, 2009-11-01)Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.) dominates many deciduous woodlands at the western margin of its range in eastern Montana. Evidence suggests that the majority of green ash woodlands are in degraded condition with declining tree canopies and ground layers dominated by exotic grasses. The dense sod formed by these perennial grasses was hypothesized to interfere with green ash regeneration from seed. The purpose of this study was to test potential methods of restoring green ash regeneration in these declining woodlands. The effects of preseeding grazing and herbicide treatment and postgermination fertilizer on the recruitment, survival, and growth of green ash seedlings at each of four study sites typical of declining green ash woodlands in southeastern Montana were assessed. Six green ash trees at each of three sites were cut to examine the relationship of age, size, and health to sprouting ability and growth. Herbicide application had a positive effect on green ash recruitment and survival of green ash seedlings in woodlands with a dense sod of exotic grasses; seedling survival after 3-4 yr was ca. 10 times greater in herbicide-treated plots compared to controls or grazed plots. Seedlings grew slowly although fertilizer had a small positive effect on growth at one site. All coppiced trees produced basal sprouts, but sprout growth was severely curtailed at two of the three sites by deer browsing, suggesting that coppicing could increase tree canopy cover by replacing weakened trees with new and more vigorous boles and branches, but only where browsing by cattle and deer is reduced. Maintaining eastern Montana green ash woodlands in good condition should be given priority because restoration will be difficult.