We documented the impacts of a hyper-abundant deer population on dune vegetation recovering from severe storm surge on a barrier island through use of permanent plots and a repeated measures analysis. Three years after landfall of the storm, vegetation cover was dominated by American beachgrass, Ammophila breviligulata, though we observed twelve plant species among plots surveyed. We documented significantly greater vegetation cover in fenced than unfenced plots in overwash fans in two consecutive years. The difference in species richness between fenced and unfenced plots was significant, though richness was consistently low (≤4 species per plot) and we did not detect a statistically significant difference between years. Both deer trampling and foraging effects were captured in this study, though separation between these effects was not possible. Because trampling effects are often exacerbated on sandy soils, trampling and foraging effects should be isolated and investigated in future assessments of deer impacts on coastal vegetation. Managing deer to lower abundance may enhance coastal resilience if vegetation is allowed to recover unimpeded by foraging and trampling, though a better understanding of the precise nature of deer impacts on dune vegetation is necessary.
|Title||Effects of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) exclusion on plant recovery in overwash fans after a severe coastal storm|
|Authors||Chellby R. Kilheffer, Jordan Raphael, Lindsay Ries, H. Brian Underwood|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||AoB PLANTS|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Patuxent Wildlife Research Center|