Great Basin Naturalist


Eight study sites were examined in Strawberry Valley, Utah, to assess the response of aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) to cutting activities of beaver (Castor Canadensis Warren & Hall) and to determine patterns by which the animals utilize aspen stands. Sites utilized by beaver, along with adjacent control plots in mature, uncut aspen stands, were sampled. Age-class profiles of control plots were composed of a broad age distribution with trees ranging from 3 to 108 years old. Age-class profiles for aspen sprouts in areas previously used by beavers were composed of trees averaging seven years of age with a range of 1 to 24 years. Age distribution of sprouts in areas used by beaver show a tendency to be skewed toward younger age classes. Average density of aspen in areas used by beaver was 15,800 stems per hectare compared to 2,980 stems per hectare in controls. Stump densities in use areas ranged from 900 to 5,066 stems per hectare. Densities of stumps in the 0-5-cm size class were greater in areas used by beavers than in the corresponding size class in the mature forests. A regression equation describing age versus diameter relationships was calculated using data from 312 aspen trees.

Total phenolics and mineral nutrients in the twigs and bark of mature aspen trees and aspen sprouts were also examined to determine if variations could explain foraging patterns of beaver in the valley. Total phenolics were highly variable between sampling groups, and differences were not significant. Twigs from mature aspen and aspen sprouts were significantly higher in nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron. Zinc was significantly higher in the bark of mature aspen trees and twigs of aspen sprouts. Calcium concentrations were significantly higher in mature aspen bark, and magnesium was significantly higher in mature aspen twigs.