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The Herbaceous Layer in Forests of Eastern North America$
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Frank Gilliam

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199837656

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199837656.001.0001

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Effects of Deer on Forest Herb Layers

Effects of Deer on Forest Herb Layers

(p.369) 16 Effects of Deer on Forest Herb Layers
The Herbaceous Layer in Forests of Eastern North America

Donald M. Waller

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores what is known about how deer (here, mostly white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus Boddaert) affect forest understory plants and ultimately forest community dynamics. It first examines factors that nearly caused deer to go extinct through the eastern USA as well as the factors that significantly boosted deer populations through the twentieth century. It then reviews the evidence that deer now represent an overabundant “keystone herbivore” in much of the region. It identifies the traits that make plants vulnerable or resistant to deer and explores what is known about how deer impacts vary over time, space, and communities of varying composition. This variation presents challenges regarding how best to monitor the impacts deer have and the potential to help forest understories recover from those impacts.

Keywords:   herbaceous layer, white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus Boddaert, forest understory plants, deer herbivory

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