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6 August 2015 Woody regeneration response to over a decade of deer population reductions in Indiana state parks 1
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While hunting is employed as a means to control overabundant populations of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and reduce the negative effects of herbivory, few studies have examined whether recovery of forest regeneration occurs following a long-term controlled hunting program. In Indiana state parks, controlled hunts were implemented in the 1990s to reduce deer population abundance and allow vegetation communities to recover. In 1996 and 1997, long-term vegetation monitoring plots were established in 16 state parks and six historically hunted reference areas to monitor vegetation response to hunting. We resampled these plots in 2010 to examine how deer reductions affected woody stem density and species composition in three height classes: < 50 cm, 50–200 cm, and > 200 cm. We also examined changes in species richness (S), evenness (E), and Shannon-Wiener diversity (H′) between 1996–97 and 2010. Temporal changes were tested with generalized linear mixed models. Density in the < 50 cm height class increased significantly in both state parks and reference areas. Density in the 50–200 cm height class increased significantly in parks, but not in reference areas. Species richness increased significantly in all three height classes in parks, but only in the > 200 cm class in reference areas. Density of Fraxinus americana and Acer saccharum increased greatly in the < 50 cm and 50–200 cm height classes in both state parks and reference areas. While still abundant in the parks, two unpalatable species, Asimina triloba and Lindera benzoin exhibited reduced relative density in the < 50 cm height class. Within parks and reference areas, the density of these species increased in the > 200 cm height class. These results indicate that the void in forest understories created by chronic herbivory in Indiana state parks is being filled by a diverse array of species following deer population reductions. In addition, the species composition of parks has become more similar to that of reference areas through time.
©2015 by The Torrey Botanical Society
Lindsay H. Jenkins, Bryan D. Murray, Michael A. Jenkins and Christopher R. Webster "Woody regeneration response to over a decade of deer population reductions in Indiana state parks 1," The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 142(3), (6 August 2015).
Received: 2 June 2014; Accepted: ; Published: 6 August 2015

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