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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Impact by white-tailed deer on community biodiversity in Mississippi, USA

Authors:

Phillip Hanberry

Brice Hanberry

S. Demarais

B. Leopold

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
2013
Secondary Title:
Plant Ecology and Diversity
Year:
2013

Abstract

The white-tailed deer is a keystone herbivore that can negatively impact plant community structure and biodiversity. Browsing by deer changes plant communities with direct consequences for ecosystem processes, including avian communities. Significant impacts on plant community structure and richness from long-term deer foraging were documented using a deer exclosure on Leaf River Wildlife Management Area. Resource agencies must educate the general public about potential ecological ramifications of high deer densities. To address this need, exclosures were constructed during 1999-2000 within the Delta (Sunflower WMA), Upper Coastal Plain (Choctaw WMA), and Lower Coastal Plain (Leaf River WMA) soil resource regions to document the effects of long-term forage exclusion. Baseline sampling of vegetation, small mammals, and birds were conducted within the exclosures and within adjacent control plots during 2000. Research data collected during spring and summer 2005 quantified effects of five years of deer herbivory exclusion on plant and animal community characteristics within each of the physiographic regions studied. The response of hardwood regeneration following deer exclusion will allow forest managers to evaluate the effects of deer herbivory on timber stand regeneration.