Journal Article

Microsite affects willow sapling recovery from bank vole (<i>Myodes glareolus</i>) herbivory, but does not affect grazing risk

Rosalind F. Shaw, Robin J. Pakeman, Mark R. Young and Glenn R. Iason

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 112, issue 4, pages 731-739
Published in print August 2013 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online June 2013 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Microsite affects willow sapling recovery from bank vole (Myodes glareolus) herbivory, but does not affect grazing risk

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Large herbivores are often removed or reduced as part of vegetation restoration programmes, but the resultant increase in vegetation biomass and changes in vegetation structure may favour small mammals. Small mammals may have large impacts on plant community composition via granivory and sapling herbivory, and increased small mammal populations may reduce any benefits of large herbivore removal for highly preferred species. This study tested the impacts of small mammal herbivory, microsite characteristics and their interaction on growth and survival of three montane willow species with differing chemical compositions, Salix lapponum, S. myrsinifolia and S. arbuscula.


In two separate years, 1-year-old saplings were planted within a 180 ha, large-mammal scrub regeneration exclosure, and either experimentally protected from or exposed to small mammals (bank voles). Saplings were planted in one of two microsite treatments, vegetation mown (to mimic a grazed sward) or disturbed (all above- and below-ground competition removed), and monitored throughout the first year of growth.

Key results

Approximately 40 % of saplings planted out in each year were damaged by bank voles, but direct mortality due to damage was very low (<2 %). There were no strong species differences in susceptibility to vole damage. Microsite treatment had no impact on the proportion of saplings attacked, but in 2004 saplings in mown microsites were more severely damaged and had smaller increases in size than those in disturbed microsites. In 2003, saplings in mown microsites had smaller increases in stem diameter following attack than those in disturbed microsites.


Planting 1-year-old willow saplings into disturbed microsites may aid growth, reduce the severity of small mammal damage and improve recovery following sub-lethal small mammal damage. Restoration management of montane willow scrub should therefore consider manipulating the planting site to provide disturbed areas of soil.

Keywords: Seedling herbivory; phenolics; Salicaceae; Salix arbuscula; Salix lapponum; Salix myrsinifolia; sapling growth rates; scrub restoration; small mammals; tree-line communities

Journal Article.  7336 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Ecology

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