skip to main content
DOE PAGES title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: A regional assessment of white-tailed deer effects on plant invasion

Abstract

Herbivores can profoundly influence plant species assembly, including plant invasion, and resulting community composition. Population increases of native herbivores, e.g., white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), combined with burgeoning plant invasions raise concerns for native plant diversity and forest regeneration. While individual researchers typically test for the impact of deer on plant invasion at a few sites, the overarching influence of deer on plant invasion across regional scales is unclear. We tested the effects of deer on the abundance and diversity of introduced and native herbaceous and woody plants across 23 white-tailed deer research sites distributed across the east central and northeastern United States and representing a wide range of deer densities and invasive plant abundance and identity. Deer access/exclusion or deer population density did not affect introduced plant richness or community-level abundance. Native and total plant species richness, abundance (cover and stem density), and Shannon diversity were lower in deer-access vs. deer-exclusion plots. Among deer access plots, native species richness, native and total cover, and Shannon diversity (cover) declined as deer density increased. Deer access increased the proportion of introduced species cover (but not of species richness or stem density). As deer density increased, the proportion of introduced species richness, cover,more » and stem density all increased. Because absolute abundance of introduced plants was unaffected by deer, the increase in proportion of introduced plant abundance is likely an indirect effect of deer reducing native cover. Indicator species analysis revealed that deer access favored three introduced plant species, including Alliaria petiolata and Microstegium vimineum, as well as four native plant species. In contrast, deer exclusion favored three introduced plant species, including Lonicera japonica and Rosa multiflora, and fifteen native plant species. Altogether, native deer reduced community diversity, lowering native plant richness and abundance, and benefited certain invasive plants, suggesting pervasive impacts of this keystone herbivore on plant community composition and ecosystem services in native forests across broad swathes of the eastern US.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [1];  [2];  [3];  [3];  [4];  [5];  [1];  [6];  [7];  [8];  [8];  [7];  [1];  [9];  [10]
  1. The Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA (United States)
  2. Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN (United States)
  3. Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA (United States)
  4. Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD (United States)
  5. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Irvine, PA (United States)
  6. The Ohio State Univ., Columbus, OH (United States)
  7. Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY (United States)
  8. Hood College, Frederick, MD (United States)
  9. Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, NJ (United States)
  10. Natural Area Consultants, Richford, NY (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), High Energy Physics (HEP) (SC-25)
OSTI Identifier:
1406125
Report Number(s):
FERMILAB-PUB-17-435-FESS
Journal ID: ISSN 2041-2851; 1633539
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC02-07CH11359
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
AoB Plants
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 10; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 2041-2851
Publisher:
Oxford University Press; Annals of Botany Company
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
60 APPLIED LIFE SCIENCES; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; biological invasions; exotic plants; herbivory; introduced plants; Odocoileus virginianus; palatability; plant invasion; regional pooled analysis

Citation Formats

Averill, Kristine M., Mortensen, David A., Smithwick, Erica A. H., Kalisz, Susan, McShea, William J., Bourg, Norman A., Parker, John D., Royo, Alejandro A., Abrams, Marc D., Apsley, David K., Blossey, Bernd, Boucher, Douglas H., Caraher, Kai L., DiTommaso, Antonio, Johnson, Sarah E., Masson, Robert, and Nuzzo, Victoria A. A regional assessment of white-tailed deer effects on plant invasion. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1093/aobpla/plx047.
Averill, Kristine M., Mortensen, David A., Smithwick, Erica A. H., Kalisz, Susan, McShea, William J., Bourg, Norman A., Parker, John D., Royo, Alejandro A., Abrams, Marc D., Apsley, David K., Blossey, Bernd, Boucher, Douglas H., Caraher, Kai L., DiTommaso, Antonio, Johnson, Sarah E., Masson, Robert, & Nuzzo, Victoria A. A regional assessment of white-tailed deer effects on plant invasion. United States. doi:10.1093/aobpla/plx047.
Averill, Kristine M., Mortensen, David A., Smithwick, Erica A. H., Kalisz, Susan, McShea, William J., Bourg, Norman A., Parker, John D., Royo, Alejandro A., Abrams, Marc D., Apsley, David K., Blossey, Bernd, Boucher, Douglas H., Caraher, Kai L., DiTommaso, Antonio, Johnson, Sarah E., Masson, Robert, and Nuzzo, Victoria A. Thu . "A regional assessment of white-tailed deer effects on plant invasion". United States. doi:10.1093/aobpla/plx047. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1406125.
@article{osti_1406125,
title = {A regional assessment of white-tailed deer effects on plant invasion},
author = {Averill, Kristine M. and Mortensen, David A. and Smithwick, Erica A. H. and Kalisz, Susan and McShea, William J. and Bourg, Norman A. and Parker, John D. and Royo, Alejandro A. and Abrams, Marc D. and Apsley, David K. and Blossey, Bernd and Boucher, Douglas H. and Caraher, Kai L. and DiTommaso, Antonio and Johnson, Sarah E. and Masson, Robert and Nuzzo, Victoria A.},
abstractNote = {Herbivores can profoundly influence plant species assembly, including plant invasion, and resulting community composition. Population increases of native herbivores, e.g., white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), combined with burgeoning plant invasions raise concerns for native plant diversity and forest regeneration. While individual researchers typically test for the impact of deer on plant invasion at a few sites, the overarching influence of deer on plant invasion across regional scales is unclear. We tested the effects of deer on the abundance and diversity of introduced and native herbaceous and woody plants across 23 white-tailed deer research sites distributed across the east central and northeastern United States and representing a wide range of deer densities and invasive plant abundance and identity. Deer access/exclusion or deer population density did not affect introduced plant richness or community-level abundance. Native and total plant species richness, abundance (cover and stem density), and Shannon diversity were lower in deer-access vs. deer-exclusion plots. Among deer access plots, native species richness, native and total cover, and Shannon diversity (cover) declined as deer density increased. Deer access increased the proportion of introduced species cover (but not of species richness or stem density). As deer density increased, the proportion of introduced species richness, cover, and stem density all increased. Because absolute abundance of introduced plants was unaffected by deer, the increase in proportion of introduced plant abundance is likely an indirect effect of deer reducing native cover. Indicator species analysis revealed that deer access favored three introduced plant species, including Alliaria petiolata and Microstegium vimineum, as well as four native plant species. In contrast, deer exclusion favored three introduced plant species, including Lonicera japonica and Rosa multiflora, and fifteen native plant species. Altogether, native deer reduced community diversity, lowering native plant richness and abundance, and benefited certain invasive plants, suggesting pervasive impacts of this keystone herbivore on plant community composition and ecosystem services in native forests across broad swathes of the eastern US.},
doi = {10.1093/aobpla/plx047},
journal = {AoB Plants},
number = 1,
volume = 10,
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {12}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 11 works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Save / Share:

Works referenced in this record:

On the formation of dense understory layers in forests worldwide: consequences and implications for forest dynamics, biodiversity, and succession
journal, June 2006

  • Royo, Alejandro A.; Carson, Walter P.
  • Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Vol. 36, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.1139/x06-025

Single and interactive effects of deer and earthworms on non-native plants
journal, September 2015


Direct and indirect effects of white-tailed deer in forest ecosystems
journal, August 2003


Demographic responses of rare forest plants to multiple stressors: the role of deer, invasive species and nutrients
journal, July 2014

  • Dávalos, Andrea; Nuzzo, Victoria; Blossey, Bernd
  • Journal of Ecology, Vol. 102, Issue 5
  • DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12279

Predation, apparent competition, and the structure of prey communities
journal, October 1977


Patterns of invasion in temperate nature reserves
journal, March 2002


Linking direct and indirect pathways mediating earthworms, deer, and understory composition in Great Lakes forests
journal, December 2012

  • Fisichelli, Nicholas A.; Frelich, Lee E.; Reich, Peter B.
  • Biological Invasions, Vol. 15, Issue 5
  • DOI: 10.1007/s10530-012-0350-6

Biotic homogenization: a few winners replacing many losers in the next mass extinction
journal, November 1999


Pervasive interactions between ungulate browsers and disturbance regimes promote temperate forest herbaceous diversity
journal, January 2010

  • Royo, Alejandro A.; Collins, Rachel; Adams, Mary Beth
  • Ecology, Vol. 91, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1890/08-1680.1

Ecological Forecasts: An Emerging Imperative
journal, July 2001


Nonconsumptive effects of a generalist ungulate herbivore drive decline of unpalatable forest herbs
journal, February 2010

  • Heckel, Christopher D.; Bourg, Norman A.; McShea, William J.
  • Ecology, Vol. 91, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.1890/09-0628.1

Large Herbivore Foraging and Ecological Hierarchies
journal, December 1987

  • Senft, R. L.; Coughenour, M. B.; Bailey, D. W.
  • BioScience, Vol. 37, Issue 11
  • DOI: 10.2307/1310545

Assessing the relative importance of disturbance, herbivory, diversity, and propagule pressure in exotic plant invasion
journal, May 2009

  • Eschtruth, Anne K.; Battles, John J.
  • Ecological Monographs, Vol. 79, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.1890/08-0221.1

Effects of abundant white-tailed deer on vegetation, animals, mycorrhizal fungi, and soils
journal, May 2014


A perfect storm: two ecosystem engineers interact to degrade deciduous forests of New Jersey
journal, March 2008


Changing Perceptions of Change: The Role of Scientists in Tamarix and River Management
journal, March 2009


Ecosystem Consequences of Biological Invasions
journal, December 2010


The Red Maple Paradox
journal, May 1998


Fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models Using lme4
journal, January 2015

  • Bates, Douglas; Mächler, Martin; Bolker, Ben
  • Journal of Statistical Software, Vol. 67, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.18637/jss.v067.i01

Long-term response of spring flora to chronic herbivory and deer exclusion in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA
journal, October 2005


Plant invasions – the role of mutualisms
journal, February 2000

  • Richardson, David M.; Allsopp, Nicky; D'Antonio, Carla M.
  • Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol. 75, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1017/S0006323199005435

In a long-term experimental demography study, excluding ungulates reversed invader's explosive population growth rate and restored natives
journal, March 2014

  • Kalisz, S.; Spigler, R. B.; Horvitz, C. C.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 111, Issue 12
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1310121111

Effects of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on Plants, Plant Populations and Communities: A Review
journal, July 2001


Range Contractions of North American Carnivores and Ungulates
journal, January 2004


Beyond the browse line: complex cascade effects mediated by white-tailed deer
journal, March 2012


Is invasion success explained by the enemy release hypothesis?
journal, August 2004


Experimental Test of the Role of Mammalian Herbivores on Old Field Succession: Community Structure and Seedling Survival
journal, July 2002

  • Cadenasso, M. L.; Pickett, S. T. A.; Morin, P. J.
  • Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, Vol. 129, Issue 3
  • DOI: 10.2307/3088773

Don't judge species on their origins
journal, June 2011

  • Davis, Mark A.; Chew, Matthew K.; Hobbs, Richard J.
  • Nature, Vol. 474, Issue 7350
  • DOI: 10.1038/474153a

Interactive effects of deer, earthworms and non-native plants on rare forest plant recruitment
journal, July 2015


Deer impacts on forest ecosystems: a North American perspective
journal, March 2001


Exotic plant invasions and the enemy release hypothesis
journal, April 2002


Do ungulates facilitate native and exotic plant spread?
journal, June 2008


Positive interactions between herbivores and plant diversity shape forest regeneration
journal, May 2014

  • Cook-Patton, Susan C.; LaForgia, Marina; Parker, John D.
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 281, Issue 1783
  • DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0261

Diversity and Evenness: A Unifying Notation and Its Consequences
journal, March 1973


A Survey of Over-Populated Deer Ranges in the United States
journal, April 1947

  • Leopold, Aldo; Sowls, Lyle K.; Spencer, David L.
  • The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 11, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.2307/3795561

Century-scale effects of invasive deer and rodents on the dynamics of forests growing on soils of contrasting fertility
journal, May 2015

  • Forsyth, David M.; Wilson, Deborah J.; Easdale, Tomás A.
  • Ecological Monographs, Vol. 85, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.1890/14-0389.1

Biotic Impoverishment and Homogenization in Unfragmented Forest Understory Communities
journal, June 2004


Traditional reviews, meta-analyses and pooled analyses in epidemiology
journal, February 1999

  • Blettner, M.
  • International Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 28, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1093/ije/28.1.1

Variable effects of large mammal herbivory on three non-native versus three native woody plants
journal, February 2008


Invasive earthworms shape forest seed bank composition
journal, March 2015

  • Nuzzo, Victoria; Dávalos, Andrea; Blossey, Bernd
  • Diversity and Distributions, Vol. 21, Issue 5
  • DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12322

Invasive weeds in rangelands: Species, impacts, and management
journal, March 2000


Ungulate Effects on the Functional Species Composition of Plant Communities: Herbivore Selectivity and Plant Tolerance
journal, October 1998

  • Augustine, David J.; McNaughton, Samuel J.
  • The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 62, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.2307/3801981

A Mathematical Theory of Communication
journal, July 1948


Long-Term Effects of White-Tailed Deer Exclusion on the Invasion of Exotic Plants: A Case Study in a Mid-Atlantic Temperate Forest
journal, March 2016


Ecological Impacts of Deer Overabundance
journal, December 2004


Earthworm invasion, white-tailed deer and seedling establishment in deciduous forests of north-eastern North America
journal, November 2014


Acceleration of Exotic Plant Invasion in a Forested Ecosystem by a Generalist Herbivore
journal, April 2009


A null model of exotic plant diversity tested with exotic and native species-area relationships: Exotic and native species-area relationships
journal, January 2006


Interactions between past land use, life-history traits and understory spatial heterogeneity
journal, July 2006

  • Fraterrigo, Jennifer M.; Turner, Monica G.; Pearson, Scott M.
  • Landscape Ecology, Vol. 21, Issue 5
  • DOI: 10.1007/s10980-005-5955-z

Spatial Heterogeneity Explains the Scale Dependence of the Native–Exotic Diversity Relationship
journal, June 2005

  • Davies, Kendi F.; Chesson, Peter; Harrison, Susan
  • Ecology, Vol. 86, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.1890/04-1196

Ecology and management of white-tailed deer in a changing world: Deer and eastern forests
journal, January 2012


Deer Browsing Delays Succession by Altering Aboveground Vegetation and Belowground Seed Banks
journal, March 2014


White-Tailed deer Impact on the Vegetation Dynamics of a Northern Hardwood Forest
journal, February 2003


Deer Impacts on Seed Banks and Saplings in Eastern New York
journal, March 2012

  • Levine, Carrie R.; Winchcombe, Raymond J.; Canham, Charles D.
  • Northeastern Naturalist, Vol. 19, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1656/045.019.0104

A meta-analysis of biotic resistance to exotic plant invasions: Biotic resistance to plant invasion
journal, September 2004


Fifty years of change in northern upland forest understories: Identity and traits of “winner” and “loser” plant species
journal, April 2006


Are Invasive Species the Drivers or Passengers of Change in Degraded Ecosystems?
journal, January 2005

  • MacDougall, Andrew S.; Turkington, Roy
  • Ecology, Vol. 86, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1890/04-0669

A global synthesis reveals biodiversity loss as a major driver of ecosystem change
journal, May 2012

  • Hooper, David U.; Adair, E. Carol; Cardinale, Bradley J.
  • Nature, Vol. 486, Issue 7401
  • DOI: 10.1038/nature11118

The mechanics of community assembly and succession
journal, November 1990


Deer Facilitate Invasive Plant Success in a Pennsylvania Forest Understory
journal, April 2009

  • Knight, Tiffany M.; Dunn, Jessica L.; Smith, Lisa A.
  • Natural Areas Journal, Vol. 29, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.3375/043.029.0202

Restoring forest herb communities through landscape-level deer herd reductions: Is recovery limited by legacy effects?
journal, November 2010


Deer feeding selectivity for invasive plants
journal, February 2016

  • Averill, Kristine M.; Mortensen, David A.; Smithwick, Erica A. H.
  • Biological Invasions, Vol. 18, Issue 5
  • DOI: 10.1007/s10530-016-1063-z

Native and Exotic Plant Species Exhibit Similar Population Dynamics During Succession
journal, May 2007


Interaction among deer browsing, hunting, and tree regeneration
journal, July 2002

  • Martin, Jean-Louis; Baltzinger, Christophe
  • Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Vol. 32, Issue 7
  • DOI: 10.1139/x02-043

Biotic resistance to plant invasions? Native herbivores prefer non-native plants
journal, September 2005


Effect of White-Tailed Deer on Songbirds within Managed Forests in Pennsylvania
journal, October 1994

  • deCalesta, David S.
  • The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 58, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.2307/3809685

Invasion of an Old-Growth Forest in New York by Ailanthus altissima: Sapling Growth and Recruitment in Canopy Gaps
journal, October 2000

  • Knapp, Liza B.; Canham, Charles D.
  • Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, Vol. 127, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.2307/3088649

Interactive effects of habitat modification and species invasion on native species decline
journal, September 2007


Dynamics of origination and extinction in the marine fossil record
journal, August 2008

  • Alroy, J.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 105, Issue Supplement 1
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0802597105

Deer density and plant palatability predict shrub cover, richness, diversity and aboriginal food value in a North American archipelago
journal, September 2014

  • Arcese, P.; Schuster, R.; Campbell, L.
  • Diversity and Distributions, Vol. 20, Issue 12
  • DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12241

Grazing Systems, Ecosystem Responses, and Global Change
journal, November 2004


Forests Too Deer: Edge Effects in Northern Wisconsin
journal, December 1988


White-tailed Deer ( Odocoileus virginianus ) Disperse Seeds of the Invasive Shrub, Amur Honeysuckle ( Lonicera maackii )
journal, January 2013

  • Castellano, Steven M.; Gorchov, David L.
  • Natural Areas Journal, Vol. 33, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.3375/043.033.0109

Managing the Abundance and Diversity of Breeding Bird Populations through Manipulation of Deer Populations
journal, August 2000


Modification of Ecosystems by Ungulates
journal, October 1996

  • Hobbs, N. Thompson
  • The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 60, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.2307/3802368

Biodiversity, exotic plant species, and herbivory: The good, the bad, and the ungulate
journal, July 2007


Endozoochory by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) across a suburban/woodland interface
journal, March 2008

  • Williams, Scott C.; Ward, Jeffrey S.; Ramakrishnan, Uma
  • Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 255, Issue 3-4
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2007.10.003

Opposing Effects of Native and Exotic Herbivores on Plant Invasions
journal, March 2006


Community-level impacts of white-tailed deer on understorey plants in North American forests: a meta-analysis
journal, January 2015


Exotic Plant Species Invade hot Spots of Native Plant Diversity
journal, February 1999


Long-term impacts of deer exclosures on mixed-oak forest composition at the Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania, USA 1
journal, April 2012


Effects of Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus (Japanese Stiltgrass) on Native Hardwood Survival and Growth: Implications for Restoration
journal, July 2011

  • Beasley, Rochelle R.; McCarthy, Brian C.
  • Natural Areas Journal, Vol. 31, Issue 3
  • DOI: 10.3375/043.031.0307

Historic disturbance regimes promote tree diversity only under low browsing regimes in eastern deciduous forest
journal, February 2013

  • Nuttle, Tim; Royo, Alejandro A.; Adams, Mary Beth
  • Ecological Monographs, Vol. 83, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1890/11-2263.1

Legacy of top-down herbivore pressure ricochets back up multiple trophic levels in forest canopies over 30 years
journal, January 2011

  • Nuttle, Tim; Yerger, Ellen H.; Stoleson, Scott H.
  • Ecosphere, Vol. 2, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1890/ES10-00108.1

Declining woodland birds in North America: should we blame Bambi?
journal, September 2012

  • Chollet, Simon; Martin, Jean-Louis
  • Diversity and Distributions, Vol. 19, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12003

Interpreting recruitment limitation in forests
journal, January 1999

  • Clark, J. S.; Beckage, B.; Camill, P.
  • American Journal of Botany, Vol. 86, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.2307/2656950

Effects of Deer Browsing on Native and Non-native Vegetation in a Mixed Oak-Beech Forest on the Atlantic Coastal Plain
journal, March 2007