Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Alejandro A. RoyoJohn S. Stanovick
    Date: 2019
    Source: Forest Ecology and Management
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Northern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (222.0 KB)


    Plant species coexistence can be promoted by multiple tradeoffs including temporal niche separation via differences in phenology. Namely, if phenological differences afford longer leaf life-spans that confer species the opportunity to exploit light and fix carbon during periods relatively free of other competitors, then coexistence, or even competitive superiority, may arise. Phenological niche separation explanations, including the Extended Leaf Phenology (ELP) hypothesis, have garnered considerable support as a mechanistic explanation for both exotic invasive species success and maintenance of native plant species. The benefits conferred by a phenological advantage, however, can be nullified if tissue losses from browsing are coincident with this phenological window of opportunity. This study experimentally tests the role of phenological advantage and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) browsing, alone and in concert, in structuring coexistence between the native forest shrub Rubus allegheniensis, which possesses an extended phenological window, and the native invasive fern Dennstaedtia punctilobula. Browsing treatments (ambient versus excluded) were factorially crossed with shading treatments (none versus shading timed to eliminate phenological advantage). The results demonstrate the phenological advantage is an essential growth mechanism for Rubus as seedlings deprived of the ELP advantage were, on average, 50% shorter than those not treated with shade. However, this benefit was largely dependent on herbivory pressure, as deer browsing largely nullified the growth benefits provided by the phenological advantage. This experiment is the first experimental study documenting how browsing impacts affect a plant species by curtailing a phenological coexistence advantage. The results suggest elucidating the interacting roles of the ELP and browsing is critical, particularly as the phenological niche advantage does not necessarily constitute a fitness advantage where browsing pressure is high. Results from this work also provide broader insight into how exotic plant species invasions that are assumed to be aided by a phenological (ELP) advantage, may be modulated through their browse susceptibility. Overall, these results suggest understanding the co-occurring roles of phenology and browsing may guide management decisions to maintain or promote understory plant diversity.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Royo, Alejandro A.; Stanovick, John S. 2019. Deer browsing overwhelms extended leaf phenology benefits: A test case with Rubus allegheniensis and a recalcitrant hay-scented fern layer. Forest Ecology and Management. 448: 294-299.


    Google Scholar


    Odocoileus virginianus, Phenology, Competition, Allegheny hardwoods

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page