Long-Term Consequences of High Deer Abundance on Forest Community Structure and Nutrient Dynamics
Lynn Christenson (Biology)
High densities of white-tailed deer have transformed local environments of the north eastern USA, affecting vegetation in both urban and rural locations. Herbivores exert strong control on vegetation community dynamics through both direct and indirect affects. Direct effects include increased N content in leaf tissue damaged through browsing and increased levels of plant secondary compounds. Indirect affects include selective browsing pressure, where preferential species are browsed out of the community, and less palatable species become dominant. The result of this selective browsing pressure is a community that typically has less total N in foliage and higher resin/tannin content, leading to decreased nutrient cycling rates and overall lower N status in the resultant community. Both of these affects has consequences for total biodiversity. Working in long-term deer exclosure plots located in Dutchess county, this project will involve the re-survey of trees, saplings and shrubs as well as the collection of soils for nutrient assessment.
Pre-requisites: ecology, chemistry preferred, plant identification skills needed, valid drivers license, excellent attention to detail, and ability to work in harsh conditions (high outdoor temperature, bugs bugging you all day, ticks in local area).
How should students express their interest in this project? interested students with the appropriate skills should email me to express their interest and ability to participate in this project