Increasing population levels of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmerman) can drastically alter forest ecosystems and negatively impact society through vectoring diseases including Lyme disease. It is difficult to estimate deer populations at multiple levels ranging from stands, counties, states, and regions. This presents a challenge as natural resource managers develop silvicultural prescriptions and forest management practices aimed at successfully regenerating tree species. This study utilized deer browse impact measurements (ranging from very low to very high) from the new tree regeneration indicator from the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program. The objective of this work was to quantify the effects of deer browse on total seedling and sapling abundance of five highly palatable species across the Lake States. Socio-environmental datasets were used in conjunction with FIA data to determine their predictive power in estimating deer browse impacts by county. Predictions from random forests models indicate that using these datasets and forest inventory information correctly predicted deer browse impact 70-90% of the time. Deer collisions per county ranked highly important in the random forests for predicting deer browse impacts in all three states. Generalized linear models were created to model seedling and sapling abundance with browse intensity. Species-specific overstory basal area was important in predicting seedling and sapling abundance for all five species (p < 0.05), with a nonlinear increase in seedling or sapling abundance, with the presence of individuals in the overstory. Results support the importance of quantifying deer browse impacts for use in determining the health and abundance of palatable species within forested ecosystems.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. May 2017. Major: Natural Resources Science and Management. Advisor: Matthew Russell. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 51 pages.
Analysis of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmerman) browse impacts and implications for forest health across the Lake States region of the United States.
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