Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Volker Bahn, Ph.D. (Advisor); Yvonne M. Vadeboncoeur, Ph.D. (Committee Member); Alejandro Royo, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


The prolonged overabundance of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) throughout the deciduous forests of eastern North America has resulted in widespread changes in the understory community. Studies have demonstrated that the exclusion of deer can allow some aspects of the understory to recover, but there are strong time-lags for deer-preferred species. Additionally, these exclosures only test the presence/absence of deer, which is not a feasible management option or desirable as deer are a part of the community. Here I evaluate how large-scale deer density manipulations within the Kinzua Quality Deer Cooperative of Pennsylvania affected understory vegetation communities. Using data from six periodic intensive vegetation surveys I assessed multiple measures of understory response, from both woody and non-woody components of the understory, including potential time-lags in recovery. Most measures I used showed some recovery while deer densities were reduced, and negative responses to increasing deer density. Often recovery responses showed varied degrees of time-lag. Overall, these findings suggest that large-scale manipulations in deer density are a viable management plan to promote community recovery following long-term deer overabundance. However, the recovery process can quickly be reversed if deer density rises, so consistent management policies are required to see long-term change.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Biological Sciences

Year Degree Awarded


Included in

Biology Commons