Effects of browsing preferences in White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus).
Bosshard, Michaela; Fazi, Joseph; McAndrew, Laura; Turner, Becca
AbstractDeer populations have increased in the past thirty years. Increased herbivory has been suspected to impact plant growth and forest regeneration. Examining the impact of deer browsing is an important component of making decisions regarding forest management. We hypothesized that white-tailed deer browsing impacts forest composition, predicting that browsing will create a significant difference in the diameter and abundance of trees, saplings, and woody ground cover species. Our study sites were located on UMBS property in the forests of northern, lower Michigan. We surveyed the count, species, and browse status of woody plants in two study sites containing two parts, one fenced to reduce exposure to deer browsing, the other unfenced. We also conducted a carbon to nitrogen analysis on all woody plant species encountered. In the burn site, we found a significant difference in the diameters of big tooth aspen between the fenced and unfenced areas. In the unburned site, we found significant differences in ground cover composition between the fenced and unfenced areas. We suggest that similar studies be conducted in the future to further investigate the impact of deer browsing on forest communities, in order to protect the regeneration of our forests and to guide decisions about deer population control.
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