, Volume 173, Issue 1, pp 59-72

Effects of white-tailed deer on the population dynamics of acorns, seedlings and small saplings of Quercus buckleyi

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Abstract

To measure the effects of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herbivory on seeds, seedlings, and young saplings of Quercus buckleyi on the eastern Edwards Plateau of central Texas, USA, experimental fenced deer exclosures were constructed. Acorns or small Q. buckleyi transplants were placed in each exclosure and in each unfenced control plot. Deer did not significantly affect acorn survival and germination, but did significantly reduce transplant survival and growth rates. The results support the hypothesis that deer are responsible for the failure of recruitment into adult size classes in Q. buckleyi populations in this region. Without adult recruitment of Q. buckleyi, the species composition and possibly even the physiognomy of woodlands on the eastern Edwards Plateau will change markedly. The results of this experiment also indicate that, although juniper (Juniperus ashei) and Q. buckleyi presumably compete for water, light, and nutrients, in the presence of deer junipers can have a positive effect on seedlings and saplings of Q. buckleyi, a case of facilitation. In the presence of deer the transplants increased in height significantly more slowly away from juniper saplings than they did beneath juniper saplings, probably due to the physical protection from browsing that junipers provided to the transplants.