Conventional Appalachian surface-mine reclamation techniques repress natural forest regeneration, and tree plantings are often necessary for reforestation. Reclaimed Appalachian surface mines harbor a suite of mammal herbivores that forage on recently planted seedlings. Anecdotal reports across Appalachia have implicated herbivory in the hindrance and failure of reforestation efforts, yet empirical evaluation of herbivory impacts on planted seedling vitality in this region remains relatively uninitiated. First growing-season survival, height growth, and mammal herbivory damage of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.), shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata Mill.), and white oak (Quercus alba L.) are presented in response to varying intensities of herbivore exclusion. Seedling survival was generally high, and height growth was positive for all species. The highest herbivory incidence of all tree species was observed in treatments offering no herbivore exclusion. While seedling protectors lowered herbivory incidence compared with no exclusion, full exclusion treatments resulted in the greatest reduction of herbivore damage. Although herbivory from rabbits, small mammals, and domestic animals was observed, cervids (deer and elk) were responsible for 95.8% of all damaged seedlings. This study indicates that cervids forage heavily on planted seedlings during the first growing-season, but exclusion is effective at reducing herbivory.

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Published in Forests, v. 9, issue 4, 222, p. 1-14.

© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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Support for purchasing and planting of seedlings was provided by the KY Sustainable Forestry Initiative Sustainable Implementation Committee. Partial funding was also provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Treecycler, Arbor Day Foundation, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, and the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center.