White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) overabundance has become a serious issue for forest health in the Northeast and Midwest by altering the ecology of forest communities. We evaluated the impact of white-tailed deer herbivory on forest composition at Letchworth State Park, NY across hunted, moderately hunted (archery only), and un-hunted zones and across maple-basswood rich mesic and Appalachian oak-hickory forest types. At each location, six 10 x 10m plots were established and the following data were collected: the dbh and species of every tree >2.5cm dbh, the species and height for every tree seedling and sapling <1.37m tall in a 1 x 10m subplot, the dbh of saplings >1.37m tall but <2.5cm dbh, the total herbaceous cover, the identity of the most common species, and soil organic matter content. Across hunting zones, the seedling/sapling species richness, overstory density, understory cover, and soil organic matter were found to be significantly different, with the non-hunting zone having the lowest values and the hunting zone having the highest values. Across forest types, seedling/sapling species richness, overstory density, and soil organic matter were found to be significantly different, with Appalachian oak-hickory having the highest values for species richness and density, and maple-basswood rich mesic having the highest value for organic matter. Based on our results, it is clear that white-tailed deer have had a large impact on the forest community composition at Letchworth State Park. To date, hunting has been employed as a remedial measure; however, hunting may not be enough to reverse the effects of overbrowsing.
|Presenters:||Julie Boerner (Undergraduate Student)
Alyssa Novarro (Undergraduate Student)
|Time:||11:15 am Session II|