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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Food plots as a habitat management tool: forage production and ungulate browsing in adjacent forest

Månsson, Johan; Roberge, Jean-Michel; Edenius, Lars; Bergström, Roger; Nilsson, Lovisa; Lidberg, Maria; Komstedt, Karl; Ericsson, Göran


A key challenge for wildlife management is to handle competing goals. High ungulate densities may be desirable from hunting and recreational perspectives, but may come in conflict with needs to limit or reduce browsing damage. Since browsing intensity is negatively related to forage availability it may be possible to mitigate damage on forest by increasing forage availability within the landscape. A commonly used method to increase the attractiveness of a localized part of the landscape is to establish food plots. In a multiyear setup using enclosures, wildlife observations, field surveys, and controlled biomass removal, we studied food plots to document forage production, utilization by ungulates, and browsing on adjacent forests in southern Sweden. The fenced parts of the food plots produced on average 2230 to 5810 kg ha. 1 marrow-stem kale, second-year clover mix or early-sown rapeseed. The biomass of target crops was generally higher within ungrazed (exclosures) compared to grazed (controls) quadrats on the food plots, which demonstrates that the crops were used as forage by ungulates. Browsing on deciduous trees in the adjacent forest was higher within 70-135 m from the food plots compared to areas further away. For wildlife management, our study shows that establishment of food plots provides substantial amounts of forage both during growing season and at the onset of the dormant season, and that a large share of this food is consumed. Finally, our study documents that forage availability for ungulates at the onset of the often-limiting dormant season can be increased by fencing food plots throughout the growing season.

Published in

Wildlife Biology
2015, Volume: 21, number: 5, pages: 246-253