AoB PLANTS

White-tailed deer are a biotic filter during community assembly, reducing species and phylogenetic diversity

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A photo of one of the exclosures and its adjacent control plot in 2009 (age then, 19 years).

White-tailed deer browsing has been implicated in the loss of species diversity from forests throughout eastern North America. In a new study published in AoB PLANTS, Begley-Miller et al. build on this previous research by examining how browsing also affects phylogenetic community structure in order to better understand the role of deer browsing in the community assembly process. In browsed plots, they found that reductions in phylogenetic diversity were much greater than reductions in species richness or diversity. Species persisting in browsed communities were also closely related. Their findings indicate that deer browsing acts as a biotic filter during the community assembly process. Their study also highlights the importance of utilizing new tools in assessing the influence of deer herbivory on plant communities, and should encourage future advances in our understanding of coexistence in communities.

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