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Forests 2016, 7(5), 101; doi:10.3390/f7050101

Pattern and Drivers of White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Herbivory on Tree Saplings across a Plateau Landscape

1
Department of Biology, University of the South, Sewanee, TN 37383, USA
2
Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability, University of the South, Sewanee, TN 37383, USA
3
Department of Earth and Environmental Systems, University of the South, Sewanee, TN 37383, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Brian J. Palik and Timothy A. Martin
Received: 18 February 2016 / Revised: 29 April 2016 / Accepted: 2 May 2016 / Published: 6 May 2016
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Abstract

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations are impacting long-term regeneration across eastern United States forests. Deer distribution and resulting herbivory patterns are variable across a landscape due to habitat patchiness and topography. It is poorly understood how features associated with topography control deer herbivory. We examined the heterogeneity of deer herbivory as it affects sapling densities across a single forest-type landscape on the Cumberland Plateau. The 1242 hectare site represented a peninsula of tableland that transitioned from developed land to forest and was surrounded on three sides by a bluff, irregularly punctuated by drainages. We examined the spatial variability of deer impacts on sapling density and modeled the relative importance of plateau accessibility features related to topography, proximity to edge, and deer culling as predictors of sapling variation. We used a stratified random design to sample sapling density across the landscape in 2012 and 2015. The intensity of deer herbivory on saplings varied, with the fewest saplings in forests surrounded by residential development. Our model predicted that plateau accessibility measures best determined sapling densities, followed by distance from edge and deer culling measures. Our results suggest that herbivory impacts may not be homogeneous in a contiguous uniform landscape if there are topographic barriers. View Full-Text
Keywords: Cumberland Plateau; sapling; forest regeneration; oak-hickory forest; modeling Cumberland Plateau; sapling; forest regeneration; oak-hickory forest; modeling
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Evans, J.P.; Oldfield, C.A.; Cecala, K.K.; Hiers, J.K.; Van De Ven, C.; Armistead, M.M. Pattern and Drivers of White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Herbivory on Tree Saplings across a Plateau Landscape. Forests 2016, 7, 101.

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