Long-Term Differences in Forests With Different Deer Densities
In a large-scale, 30-year controlled experiment, Forest Service scientists found that 10 years of different densities of white-tailed deer created contrasting forest tree communities with effects that ricocheted up the food chain even 20 to30 years later. Higher deer densities during stand initiation resulted in significantly reduced diversity of tree species, and density of canopy foliage, canopy insects, and birds, even thirty years later. Because recruitment of trees from seedlings to the canopy occurs over a relatively brief, early period (for about 10 years) these results show that even short-term variations in deer density may cause centuries-long disruptions to forest ecosystem structure and function. As numbers of predators decline and herbivores increase worldwide, similar effects may persist long after herbivore density becomes effectively managed.
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