Understory Community Divergence Following Deer Exclusion in a Mixed Conifer-Hardwood Forest

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Throughout eastern North America, white-tailed deer herbivory is a key disturbance that can be expressed in terms of periodicity, severity, extent, intensity. Exclosure studies manipulate this disturbance, allowing researchers to determine the extent to which deer alter plant community composition and habitat structure. Here, I take advantage of a 20-year study of deer exclusion in a hemlock-northern hardwood stand in N Wisconsin. I test two hypotheses: the difference in species composition and percent cover between browsed and unbrowsed plots differs radically, and year-to-year variability in species composition and percent cover is greater in browsed plots. I sampled species composition annually beginning in 2006 in adjacent control-exclosure plots along permanent line-intercept transects. In each year I calculated the Bray-Curtis distance among all pairwise combination of sites, with species weighted by percent cover. I used ANOSIM to analyze multivariate differences between exclosure and control plots, and PERMDISP to test for differences in interannual variability between exclosure and control plots.


Presented at the 95th Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA.

Presentation Number OOS 7-3.

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