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Fire-Induced Changes in the Nutritional Quality of Lodgepole Pine Bark

Walter J. Jakubas, Robert A. Garrott, P. J. White and David R. Mertens
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 58, No. 1 (Jan., 1994), pp. 35-46
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3809546
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3809546
Page Count: 12
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Fire-Induced Changes in the Nutritional Quality of Lodgepole Pine Bark
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Abstract

Extensive lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forests in the Madison River drainage of Yellowstone National Park were burned in 1988. Winter feeding behavior of 24 radio-collared cow elk (Cervus elaphus) in the Madison River drainage indicated widespread consumption of burned lodgepole pine bark. Following fires, forage availability and composition may be enhanced for ungulates; however, it has not been determined if burned vegetation is an important temporary forage. We hypothesized that fire improved the nutritional quality of bark thus creating an additional food source for elk. To determine the nutritional quality of bark we analyzed burned and unburned lodgepole pine bark for secondary metabolites, nutrients, and digestibility. Burned bark was >2 times (P = 0.049) as digestible as live bark in 96-hour in vitro digestion trials. Overall levels of phenolic glycosides, monoterpenes, and diterpene resin acids were lower (P < 0.001) in burned bark than in bark from live trees, and burned bark contained more (P < 0.001) crude protein than bark from live trees. Neutral detergent fiber in burned bark was ≥4 times as digestible as that in live trees (P = 0.107); however, the digestibility of neutral detergent solubles was similar (P = 0.686) among all barks and lower than predicted. Burned bark did not differ (P > 0.05) in its chemical composition or digestibility from the bark of dead, unburned trees. Low levels of plant secondary metabolites in dead and burned bark may explain why elk and insects preferentially use these trees. Overall, burned bark is a low quality food compared with other winter forages. Consumption of burned bark by elk may be related more to the efficiency with which they can obtain the bark than to its nutritional quality. We hypothesize that the 1988 fire removed a barrier to wider use of lodgepole pine by elk by reducing the levels of plant secondary metabolites in the bark.

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