Community-level impacts of white-tailed deer on understory plants in North American forests: a meta-analysis

White-tailed deer in an over-browsed forest understory at Shenandoah National Park, Virginia (Photo by Chris Habeck).
White-tailed deer in an over-browsed forest understory at Shenandoah National Park, Virginia (Photo by Chris Habeck).

In many regions of the world, exotic or overabundant large herbivores are a concern for the conservation of forest plant communities. Previous work suggests that the impacts of white-tailed deer overabundance in North American forests are broadly negative. However, no quantitative synthesis currently exists to verify the generality or magnitude of these impacts. In a new study published in AoB PLANTS, Habeck and Schultz used meta-analytical techniques to show that white-tailed deer have strongly negative impacts on the diversity and abundance of forest understory plant communities, but that these impacts are not ubiquitous for all components of the plant community, with the deer having their largest impacts on woody plant species. They also suggest some strategies to increase opportunities for future quantitative syntheses of deer impacts on forests, including providing better access to existing and future data.

Reference List

Habeck, C. W., & Schultz, A. K. (2015). Community-level impacts of white-tailed deer on understorey plants in North American forests: a meta-analysis. AoB Plants, 7, plv119. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plv119