Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hunting gives deer-damaged forests in state parks a shot at recovery

Date:
July 9, 2014
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Regulated deer hunts in Indiana state parks have helped restore the health of forests suffering from decades of damage caused by overabundant populations of white-tailed deer, a study shows. A research team found that a 17-year-long policy of organizing hunts in state parks has successfully spurred the regrowth of native tree seedlings, herbs and wildflowers rendered scarce by browsing deer.

Regulated deer hunts in Indiana state parks have helped restore the health of forests suffering from decades of damage caused by overabundant populations of white-tailed deer, a Purdue study shows.

A research team led by Michael Jenkins, associate professor of forest ecology, found that a 17-year-long Indiana Department of Natural Resources policy of organizing hunts in state parks has successfully spurred the regrowth of native tree seedlings, herbs and wildflowers rendered scarce by browsing deer.

Jenkins said that while hunting may be unpopular with some, it is an effective means of promoting the growth and richness of Indiana's natural areas.

"We can't put nature in a glass dome and think it's going to regulate itself," he said. "Because our actions have made the natural world the way it is, we have an obligation to practice stewardship to maintain ecological balance."

Indiana state parks historically did not allow hunting. But by the 1990s, white-tailed deer populations in parks had swelled to such size that many species of native wildflowers such as trillium and lilies largely disappeared, replaced by wild ginger and exotic species such as garlic mustard and Japanese stiltgrass, plants not favored by deer. Oak and ash tree seedlings gave way to highly deer-resistant or unpalatable trees such as pawpaw.

The health of deer in state parks also dwindled as their food sources shrank.

To check the overabundant deer populations, the DNR introduced controlled hunts in state parks in 1993, with most parks adopting the strategy by 1996.

"Hunting in natural areas is controversial," Jenkins said. "But when deer are overabundant, they start to have undeniable negative impacts on the ecosystem."

Working with Christopher Webster, a Michigan Tech University professor and Purdue alumnus, Jenkins and then-master's student Lindsay Jenkins (no relation) tested the effectiveness of the hunting program by comparing the amount of plant cover in 108 plots in state parks and historically hunted areas with 1996-97 levels. They found that total plant cover in state parks more than doubled from 1996-97 to 2010. Herbs such as asters, violets and goldenrods increased from about 20 percent to 32 percent cover, and percent cover of grasses rose from 1 to 3 percent. Tree seedlings jumped from about 2 percent to about 13 percent of total plant cover, a finding that suggests when older trees die out, there will be younger trees to replace them, Jenkins said.

"With heavy populations of deer, tree seedlings often don't have a chance to survive," he said. "In those situations, the forest could lose its ability to reproduce itself and eventually cease to be healthy."

The study also showed that the hunting program led to the recovery of native species and discouraged the spread of invasive and exotic species, said Lindsay Jenkins.

"We saw a striking improvement in the quality and diversity of the forest understory in state parks compared with conditions before the hunting program," she said. "The deer management program is having a clear, beneficial impact on Indiana parks and could serve as a good example for nature preserves with overabundant deer in other states."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lindsay H. Jenkins, Michael A. Jenkins, Christopher R. Webster, Patrick A. Zollner, Joshua M. Shields. Herbaceous layer response to 17years of controlled deer hunting in forested natural areas. Biological Conservation, 2014; 175: 119 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2014.04.022

Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Hunting gives deer-damaged forests in state parks a shot at recovery." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140709164437.htm>.
Purdue University. (2014, July 9). Hunting gives deer-damaged forests in state parks a shot at recovery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140709164437.htm
Purdue University. "Hunting gives deer-damaged forests in state parks a shot at recovery." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140709164437.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
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