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Abstract Detail

Interactions of White-Tailed Deer and Invasive Plants in Forests of Eastern North America

Webster, Christopher [1], Jenkins, Michael [2], Rock, Janet [3].

Plant invasions and deer overabundance in the woodlots of Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

White-tailed (Odocoileus virginianus) deer act as a keystone species in forested ecosystems. A growing body of literature has identified associations between high deer abundance and the success of invasive plants. We review the history of deer abundance and invasive species in the understory of woodlands in and around Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN, USA. Specifically, we synthesize data from long-term monitoring plots and exclosure studies in and around the Cove. Individual species response to historically high levels of herbivory ranged from neutral to strongly positive. Not surprisingly, exotics that were intolerant or intermediate shade tolerance declined on long-term monitoring plots, likely as a result of forest maturation. Bird-dispersed exotic shrubs, such as Rosa multifora, were relatively uncommon but appeared to benefit from perch sites provided by exclosure fences and resurgent woody regeneration within exclosures. The species exhibiting the strongest positive association with deer herbivory was Microstegium vimineum; an exotic, annual, C4 grass that is tolerant of shaded understory conditions. Results from deer exclosures and control plots suggest that this species’ ability to suppress native plants is enhanced by deer herbivory. In fact, while more abundant on exclosure than control plots initially, this species is now substantially less abundant within deer exclosures relative to control plots. Collectively, these observations lend support to the passenger model of community change and suggest that plant invasions be viewed in concert with changes in disturbance regimes and ungulate abundance.

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1 - Michigan Technological University, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI, 49931, USA
2 - Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, 715 West State Street, West Lafayette, Indiana, 47907-2061, United States

white-tailed deer
Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Session: C1, Interactions of white-tailed deer and invasive plants in forests of eastern North America
Location: Chatham Ballroom - C/Savannah International Trade and Convention Center
Date: Monday, August 1st, 2016
Time: 2:45 PM
Number: C1005
Abstract ID:227
Candidate for Awards:None

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