Deer in woods

The damage caused by grazing white-tailed deer goes far beyond suburban lawns and gardens. Uncontrolled deer activity is creating environmental havoc in northeastern forests, say Faculty Fellow Anurag Agrawal (EEB) 

Deer Disrupting Northeastern Forests

March 18, 2014

Deer in woods

The damage caused by grazing white-tailed deer goes far beyond suburban lawns and gardens. Uncontrolled deer activity is creating environmental havoc in northeastern forests, say Faculty Fellow Anurag Agrawal (EEB) and his Cornell collaborators. The new results hit close to home for Ithaca’s forests: the team carried out the five-year field study on abandoned agricultural land owned by Cornell.

Deer prefer to eat native woody plants and avoid nonnative species. When they overgraze native plants, invasive species flourish and seed the land. The researchers found that exploding deer populations disrupt seed banks—soil in land heavily browsed by deer contains many more seeds from nonnative species. The impacts of deer grazing on both vegetation and seed banks were severe.

“Deer are slowing down forest succession or natural establishment. In fact, the deer are preventing forests from establishing,” Agrawal explained. His remarks were quoted in several media outlets when the team’s paper appeared in early March.

Read more on the Environmental News Network.