Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

White-tailed deer and the science of yellow snow

Date:
June 4, 2013
Source:
Michigan Technological University
Summary:
New research from wildlife ecologists indicates that white-tailed deer may be making the soil in their preferred winter homes unfit to grow the very trees that protect them there.

Deer like to gather under the protection of evergreens like northern white cedar in the winter .
Credit: Image courtesy of Michigan Technological University

New research from wildlife ecologists at Michigan Technological University indicates that white-tailed deer may be making the soil in their preferred winter homes unfit to grow the very trees that protect them there.

Bryan Murray, a PhD candidate at Michigan Tech, and two faculty members, Professor Christopher Webster and Assistant Professor Joseph Bump, studied the effects on soil of the nitrogen-rich waste that white-tailed deer leave among stands of eastern hemlock, which are among their favorite wintering grounds in the harsh, snowy climate of northern Michigan. Webster and Bump are on the faculty of Michigan Tech's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science.

They compared eastern hemlock stands where deer congregated to stands where deer were fenced out and found a strong relationship between the amount of soil nitrogen from the deer's waste products and the kinds of plants that flourished there. Their research results were reported online in the journal Ecology, published by the Ecological Society of America.

"Altering the nitrogen availability in a hemlock stand may affect its ability to continue functioning as a deeryard by changing the types of plants that grow there," said Murray, first author on the journal article titled "Broadening the ecological context of ungulate-ecosystem interactions: the importance of space, seasonality, and nitrogen." For example, he said, "high inputs of nitrogen may hasten the transition of hemlock stands to hardwood species that provide scant winter cover."

During cold northern winters, deer seek out stands of evergreens with dense crowns, such as eastern hemlock, northern white cedar and balsam fir. Such stands of trees are known as "deeryards." They are thought to provide refuge from deep snow and blustery winds and to help deer hide from predators, Murray explained.

Deer instinctively seek deeryards, but their choice of location is knowledge passed from mother to fawn. Thus deeryards that are traditional favorites can harbor 100 deer or more per square mile, creating hotspots of high-nitrogen-content waste.

Long ago, before logging enabled the white-tailed deer to move further and further north and before the deer population explosion more recently experienced, the ecosystem stayed balanced because there were plenty of deeryards and fewer deer. Now more deer are crowding into less winter cover, shifting the dynamic balance of nature.

The Michigan Tech research demonstrates that the relationship of deer to their habitat is more complex than just the plants they eat, Webster said. "Our hope is that by better understanding the links between habitat use and spatial patterning of resources and plants in survivng hemlock stands we can identify sustainable management strategies for this critical resource."

"It was fascinating to discover such complex interactions, which have implications for sustainable management, in a seemingly simple ecosystem," Murray added.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University. The original article was written by Jennifer Donovan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bryan David Murray, Christopher Raymond Webster, Joseph Bump. Broadening the ecological context of ungulate-ecosystem interactions: the importance of space, seasonality, and nitrogen. Ecology, 2013; 130426120907004 DOI: 10.1890/12-1582.1

Cite This Page:

Michigan Technological University. "White-tailed deer and the science of yellow snow." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130604113952.htm>.
Michigan Technological University. (2013, June 4). White-tailed deer and the science of yellow snow. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130604113952.htm
Michigan Technological University. "White-tailed deer and the science of yellow snow." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130604113952.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins