A study of the impact of the European wild rabbit, (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.), on young tree plantations.

  • Anne Downes Regional Technical College, Dundalk, Co. Louth.
  • John Whelan Department of Environmental Resource Management, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
Keywords: Rabbit damage, young tree plantations, shoot damage, stem damage, control measures, forest protection, pedunculate oak Quercus robur L., ash, Fraxinus excelsior, Sitka spruce, Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr, Japanese larch, Larix kaempferi L.. Beech, Fagus sylvatica L., sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa L., Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, wildlife.


The relative susceptibility of seven tree species of both broadleaves and conifers, to damage by the European rabbit, (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.) , was investigated on two newly planted sites in Co. Wicklow. The incidence and the severity of three different forms of rabbit damage were assessed using the nearest neighbour sampling technique. Four tree species were identified as being susceptible to all forms of rabbit damage that is, either to the leading shoot, to side-shoots or to the stem. These were; penduculate oak (Quercus robur L.), ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr) and Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi L.). Those that displayed relatively low levels of damage were beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa L . ), and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii L.). Damage to the side-shoots of all of the young trees was found to be consistently high for all four vulnerable species. Most of the damage was slight but severe side-shoot damage did occur in ash. The incidence of leader loss was found to be high for two species, oak and ash. The incidence and severity of bole damage was most prevalent in ash. Differences between tree species in susceptibility to different forms of rabbit damage were identified as being due to a number of interrelated factors, which were ecological, chemical and physical in nature.
How to Cite
Downes, A. and Whelan, J. (1992) “A study of the impact of the European wild rabbit, (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.), on young tree plantations. ”, Irish Forestry. Available at: https://journal.societyofirishforesters.ie/index.php/forestry/article/view/9703 (Accessed: 6December2023).