Researchers at the NTNU University Museum recently published an article in the journal Ecosystems, where they showed the impact moose browsing has on forest structure, tree species composition, and soil temperature. Understanding the effect moose have on forest structure is key knowledge for guiding how we manage their populations, as moose have no natural predators in most of Scandinavia.
The article showed that chronic moose browsing has caused the near extinction of tree species like rowan and goat willow, something that causes the developing forest to become more open and considerably warmer. Our researchers did not find any change belowground in soil structure, in contrast to previous studies which showed that the conifer dominated forest associated with larger moose presence also comes with a reduction in soil fertility. This discrepancy may be a product of soils generally taking a long time to change in response to pressures, which makes way for exciting research in the future. We hope this experiment can continue for many more years so that we can increase our understanding of the functional role that moose has in the forest.