Deer Abundance Impacts on Forest Community Structure and Nutrient Dynamics along an urban to rural gradient.
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 effects. Direct effects include increased N content in leaf tissue damaged through browsing and increased levels of plant secondary compounds. Indirect effects 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 within the EMMA network, this project will involve the re-survey of trees, saplings and shrubs as well as the collection of soils, soil solution and gas efflux for nutrient assessment. This project will include both field and laboratory work. This position will work closely with the URSI student that is working on the project called ‘Consequences of deer overabundance and invasive species on forest community structure and diversity’.
Prerequisites: course in ecology, experience with data analysis, plant identification skills, and organizational skills.
How should students express their interest in this project? Send me an email.