An important project at Bandelier aims to examine how elk are changing forest structure and composition through browsing. One very visible aspect of elk browsing is on aspen clones. Elk browse on the new shoots of aspen trees produced by the clones’s root system. When large aspen trees are killed by old age, fire, or disease, heavy browsing can destroy the clone. This is significant as aspen do not reproduce by seed in the Intermountain West. In 1998, enclosures constructed to exclude elk demonstrated the extent of browsing impacts on aspen and many other plant species.
Last updated: February 24, 2015