Abstract Detail


Koon, Kallie [1], Gorchov, David [2].

White-tailed deer impacts on tree regeneration and plant species composition in the Cincinnati Parks System.

Overabundant deer in many parts of the United States are a threat to forest regeneration and future forest composition due to browse on seedlings of preferred tree species. The Cincinnati (Ohio) Parks system has had overabundant deer for decades and has implemented a controlled hunting program for deer management in some parks. In this study, we investigated the Cincinnati Parks system’s hunting program to determine if it was reducing deer density enough to facilitate forest regeneration. To do this, we completed surveys of seedlings, saplings, trees, palatable herbs, and invasive shrub species in the older growth portion of 5 different parks within the Cincinnati Parks System. We found that in all 5 sites, sapling densities were much lower than the 1,000 saplings/ha considered sufficient for forest regeneration, suggesting that there was browse pressure in the past. Four of five sites had seedling densities above the 2,500 seedlings/ha considered sufficient for forest regeneration. However, when species that cannot contribute to future canopies (Fraxinus spp. and Asimina triloba) were excluded, all sites were below 2,500 seedlings/ha. This suggests that there is a regeneration failure in these parks, and without further management and restoration practices, the future forest canopy is at risk.
Furthermore, we found evidence that deer had shifted the tree composition to species of lower browse preference. All five sites had highly and moderately preferred species in the canopy layer, but highly preferred seedlings and sapling were scarce, indicating regeneration mismatch. Palatable herbaceous species were also very low in abundance, with only 5 out of 26 species present in sampled plots in the 5 parks, with these species combined comprising only 0.13 to 1.86% percent cover.
The five parks differed in percent cover of invasive shrubs, ranging from 5.2% to 51.7%. Across the five parks, tree seedling density correlated negatively with both deer density (from infrared aerial counts) and invasive shrub cover.
In all of the parks, deer densities were much higher than 20 deer per square mile, the density considered sufficient for forest regeneration. This suggests that the hunting program has not decreased deer populations sufficiently in the Cincinnati Parks. In order to facilitate tree regeneration in these parks, other management strategies and restoration practices should be considered.

1 - 5201 College Corner Pike Lot #24, Oxford, OH, 45056, United States
2 - Miami University, Department Of Biology, Pearson Hall, Oxford, OH, 45056, United States

white-tailed deer
tree regeneration
Community composition
regeneration failure

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: EC12005
Abstract ID:120
Candidate for Awards:Ecological Section Best Graduate Student Paper

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