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Scholars Day: April 11, 2012

Impact of White-tailed Deer Herbivory on Forest Composition at Letchworth State Park

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.

Please note that presentation times are approximate. If you are interested in attending sessions with multiple presentations, please be in the room at the start of the session.
Presenters: Julie Boerner (Undergraduate Student)
Alyssa Novarro (Undergraduate Student)
Topic: Environmental Science
Location: 122 Hartwell
Time: 11:15 am Session II