Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deer proliferation disrupts a forest's natural growth

Date:
March 8, 2014
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that a burgeoning deer population forever alters the progression of a forest's natural future by creating environmental havoc in the soil and disrupting the soil's natural seed banks.

White-tailed deer (stock image). Deer typically prefer to eat native, woody plants and rebuff invasive species. The study showed that when deer consume native plants, the non-native species are left to flourish, dropping seed in the soil.
Credit: Sylvana Rega / Fotolia

By literally looking below the surface and digging up the dirt, Cornell researchers have discovered that a burgeoning deer population forever alters the progression of a forest's natural future by creating environmental havoc in the soil and disrupting the soil's natural seed banks.

Related Articles


The study, "Deer Browsing Delays Succession by Altering Aboveground Vegetation and Belowground Seed Banks," was published online March 7 in PLOS ONE.

"Deer are slowing down forest succession or natural establishment. In fact, the deer are preventing forests from establishing," says Anurag Agrawal, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, a co-author on the paper.

Deer typically prefer to eat native, woody plants and rebuff invasive species. The study showed that when deer consume native plants, the non-native species are left to flourish, dropping seed in the soil.

As forests normally mature, their grasses give way to herbs and shrubs, and then new trees eventually take root. Expanding deer populations in the Northeast, however, stall forest development and promote the growth of thorny thickets of buckthorn, viburnum and multiflora rose bushes. If deer leave the forests alone, such trees as cottonwood, locust and sumac can sprout and grow unimpeded.

The researchers found that the impacts of deer grazing on vegetation were severe and resulted in bare soil and reduced plant biomass, less recruitment of woody species and relatively fewer native species. And the deer's negative impact on seed banks resulted in significantly decreased overall species richness and relatively more short-lived species of both annual and biennial plants.

Co-author Antonio DiTommaso, Cornell associate professor of weed ecology and management, and research technician Scott Morris gathered soil cores -- from both within and outside of fenced "deer exclosures" -- and germinated the seed. They found the soil cores from outside of the exclosures contained many more seeds from non-native species.

Deer select forests for their trees but in doing so disrupt forest system growth trajectories, concludes the study.

"It's obvious that the deer are affecting the above-ground species, but it's like an iceberg. There are major effects below the soil surface. We are seeing a divergence of seeds contained within the soil from what should be there," says DiTommaso. "We are not seeing the seeds of woody plants. Instead, we're seeing an escalation of non-native seed and the virtual elimination of woody plant seeds."

The multiyear study was conducted on Cornell land near Freese Road in Ithaca, where the deer density is about 39 animals per square kilometer -- about 10 times greater than it was before European settlement in the late 1700s.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Joe Schwartz. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Antonio DiTommaso, Scott H. Morris, John D. Parker, Caitlin L. Cone, Anurag A. Agrawal. Deer Browsing Delays Succession by Altering Aboveground Vegetation and Belowground Seed Banks. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (3): e91155 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091155

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Deer proliferation disrupts a forest's natural growth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140308095500.htm>.
Cornell University. (2014, March 8). Deer proliferation disrupts a forest's natural growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140308095500.htm
Cornell University. "Deer proliferation disrupts a forest's natural growth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140308095500.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

AFP (Mar. 25, 2015) Experts are gathering in Botswana to try to end the illegal wildlife trade that is decimating populations of elephants, rhinos and other threatened species. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Elephants Help Keep 18-Wheeler From Toppling Over

Elephants Help Keep 18-Wheeler From Toppling Over

Newsy (Mar. 25, 2015) The Natchitoches Parish Sheriff&apos;s Office discovered two elephants keeping a tractor-trailer that had gotten stuck in some mud upright on a highway. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby 'pet' Orangutan Rescued from Chicken Cage Takes First Steps

Baby 'pet' Orangutan Rescued from Chicken Cage Takes First Steps

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) Buti, a baby orangutan who was left malnourished in a chicken cage before his rescue, takes his first steps after months of painful physical therapy. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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