The impact of deer on woodlands: the effects of browsing and seed dispersal on vegetation structure and composition

Rma. Gill et V. Beardall, The impact of deer on woodlands: the effects of browsing and seed dispersal on vegetation structure and composition, FORESTRY, 74(3), 2001, pp. 209-218
Citations number
Categorie Soggetti
Plant Sciences
Journal title
ISSN journal
0015-752X → ACNP
Year of publication
209 - 218
SICI code
The effect of deer on woodland vegetation is reviewed, focusing on processe s that are likely to bring about changes in structure and composition. By b rowsing on tree seedlings, shrubs and climbers, deer tend to reduce stem de nsities, limit height growth and reduce foliage density, creating a more op en understorey. Light penetration to the ground can be increased, providing more plant cover close to the ground surface. Using results from 13 studie s in temperate woodlands, the effects of deer browsing on the species richn ess and diversity of trees were analysed using general linear models. The r esults show that deer tend to reduce the diversity of seedlings, and that t he effect is greater at higher deer densities. Differences in susceptibilit y of tree species were evident, with some species being depleted by deer at all sites, whereas others declined in some sites but increased in others. The effects of deer on the amount and composition of regeneration appear to depend on site characteristics, including the light regime and composition of the ground vegetation. Although few studies of seed dispersal by ungula tes (endozoochory) have been made in Britain, deer have been shown to be ef fective seed dispersers of a number of plant species. Plants with small har d seeds are most likely to survive digestion. Most of the species known to be dispersed in this way include grasses and small herbs. In view of the fa ct that dispersal mechanisms of many woodland species are not well understo od, endozoochory may be more important than is generally realized.