White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) overbrowsing has altered plant species diversity throughout deciduous forest understories in eastern North America. Here we report on a landscape-level (306 km2) project in Pennsylvania, USA that tracked the herbaceous community response to deer herd reductions. From 2001 to 2007, we estimated deer densities, browse impact on woody seedlings, and censused the herbaceous flora in permanent plots throughout the area. We assessed herb layer species richness, abundance, and dominance and measured three known phytoindicators of deer impact: Trillium spp., Maianthemum canadense, and Medeola virginiana. We predicted that browse-sensitive taxa would increase in abundance, size, and flowering as would overall species diversity following deer culls and browse impact that declined by an order of magnitude by 2007.
Royo, Alejandro A.; Stout, Susan L.; deCalesta, David S.; Pierson, Timothy G. 2010. Restoring forest herb communities through landscape-level deer herd reductions: Is recovery limited by legacy effects?. Biological Conservation. 143(11): 2425-2434. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2010.05.020.