Seedling survival and growth in eastern white pines (Pinus strobus L.) might be limited by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) browsing. However, most studies have occurred in areas central to the white pine range, making other factors such as seedling microenvironment unimportant. If microenvironment becomes a concern near the edge of the white pine range, then factors such as seedling placement in relation to forest openings could be important, especially given that deer herbivory tends to be most intense near forest edges. We evaluated the relative importance of deer browse and seedling position in openings on seedling survival and growth in central North Carolina at the southern edge of the white pine range. Further, we determined if bud caps and caging improved survival and growth. Seedlings ≤ 10 m from the edge survived at a greater proportion than those > 10 m from the edge (83% and 73%, respectively). Initial height was the most important predictor of survival (R2 = 0.55; p < 0.01). When controlling for initial seedling height, the location of the seedling (p < 0.01) within the opening was the only significant predictor of survival, despite the increase of browse near the edges of openings on unprotected seedlings. Caging and bud caps decreased seedling browse by 80% but had no effect on subsequent seedling survival (p = 0.28). A smaller proportion of seedlings with bud caps survived—an effect exacerbated by being internal to the opening. Our data indicate seedling microenvironment is an important consideration at the periphery of the white pine range.
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Vol. 82 • No. 2