PS 48-86
Long term community changes following deer management in a remnant montane Pinus palustris forest

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Exhibit Hall, Baltimore Convention Center
Hannah Gousse, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Univeristy of Connecticut, South Windsor, CT
Rita Malia Fincher, Biology, Samford University, Birmingham, AL

Montane longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forests are currently dwindling due to fire suppression. Longleaf pine forests require reoccurring natural forest fires for longleaf regeneration and maintenance of the understory community composition. In many areas of the southeastern United States, decades of fire suppression have led to invasion of longleaf-dominated forests by deciduous hardwoods and other pine species.  This study shows the impacts that high densities of white-tailed deer have on a fire-suppressed remnant longleaf pine ecosystem within Alabama’s Oak Mountain State Park. The park is divided into two geologic and ecological zones: the lower elevation foothills region and the higher, rocky, southeastern-facing slopes of the ridge of Double Oak Mountain.  In order to compare the impacts of deer among these two habitats, we surveyed understory woody plant diversity and rates of deer browsing in 20 plots that had initially been surveyed in 2003.


Species richness and diversity of plants on the southeastern slopes of the ridge were 35 and 1.573 respectively. While in the foothills region of the park, Species richness and diversity were 27 and 1.134. Deer browsing pressure was higher in the foothills. The probability of a plant experiencing deer browsing was positively correlated with the proportion of palatable plant species within a plot, indicating that plants may benefit from associational resistance. Comparisons of similarity indices of canopy trees and understory seedlings showed that reproduction of canopy trees may be slightly more successful in the foothills than on the ridge.