Site: Bonanza Creek LTER

Browsing by snowshoe hares and moose have dramatic top-down influences on vegetation composition, successional dynamics, and ecosystem function throughout interior Alaska.
Credit: Knut Kielland

Browsing by moose and snowshoe hares affects plant species composition, growth, population dynamics, nutrient cycling, and ecosystem function at both stand and landscape scales, causing effects that can persist for decades. Both species selectively consume willows, leading to the dominance of alder, an important nitrogen-fixing species that is chemically defended against herbivory. Snowshoe hare abundance varies nearly as much on an intra-annual basis as it does across a decadal population cycle, underscoring the complex interaction of biophysical factors. This in turn influences predation intensity and the population abundance of lynx, which is largely controlled by emigration and immigration.