Effects of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on plants, plant populations and communities: A Review

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Issue Date
2001-07
Authors
Russell, F. Leland
Zippin, David B.
Fowler, Norma L.
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Abstract

Large effects of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) upon individual plants, plant populations and communities have been documented in a number of studies. However, well-supported experimental measures of the magnitude and geographical extent of these effects are still surprisingly scarce. Deer-caused changes in stem morphology and reductions in plant growth rates are well-documented in some parts of the North America. Furthermore, deer have been shown to affect the composition of several plant communities in the north-central and northeastern United States. There are some documented cases of deer-caused reductions in plant survival; most of these are tree seedlings and saplings. However, many studies have detected no effects on plant survival or fecundity, or have found that negative effects occur only in a fraction of years, seasons, sites or deer densities. Little is known about population-level or ecosystem-level impacts. Many regions and plant communities with large deer populations have not been studied. Whereas deer density is clearly important in determining spatial and temporal variation in the presence and magnitude of deer effects, other factors that may modify the effects of deer density are poorly understood.

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