A management experiment reveals the difficulty of altering seedling growth and palatable plant biomass by culling invasive deer

David S.L. Ramsey, David M. Forsyth, Clare J. Veltman, Sarah J. Richardson, Robert B. Allen, Will J. Allen, Richard J. Barker, Peter J. Bellingham, Chris L. Jacobson, Simon J. Nicol, Alastair W. Robertson, Charles R. Todd

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Context There is concern that deer are shifting forests towards undesirable trajectories, and culling of deer is often advocated to mitigate these impacts. However, culling deer is expensive and sometimes controversial. To reliably ascertain whether such action is beneficial, management-scale experiments are needed. We conducted a management experiment to evaluate the benefits of culling deer in four New Zealand forests. Aims Our experiment tested the predictions that culling deer should increase (1) canopy tree seedling height relative growth rate (SHRGR), and (2) the foliar biomass of understorey species palatable to deer (FBP). Methods Each forest was divided into two 3600-ha areas, with deer culling randomly assigned to one area. Deer abundances were indexed using faecal pellet counts, and forest variables were measured at the start and end of the 8-year experiment. Deer were already at low abundance in one forest and were not culled there. We used structural equation modelling (SEM) with Bayesian variable selection to update our a priori graphical forest-deer model with data from all four forests. Key results Deer abundances were significantly reduced in one forest but increased or did not change in the other two forests in which deer culling occurred. Culling deer did not increase seedling height relative growth rate (SHRGR) or the foliar biomass of understorey species palatable to deer (FBP) in the three areas subject to deer culling compared with the three areas not subject to deer culling. SEM revealed no significant relationships between local-scale deer abundance and either SHRGR or FBP. Rather, tree basal area and the foliar biomass of unpalatable understorey species were important predictors of FBP and SHRGR, respectively, in some forests. Conclusions Our study revealed that culling deer, as currently practiced by New Zealand land managers, did not generate the desired responses in New Zealand forests, possibly due to deer not being culled to sufficiently low densities and/or because forest dynamics and abiotic drivers determined plant growth more than deer. Implications Managers should consider actions other than ineffective deer culling (e.g. creating canopy gaps) to alter the dynamics of New Zealand forests. Alternatively, managers will need to substantially increase culling effort above what is currently practised for this activity to substantially reduce deer populations and thus potentially alter forest dynamics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)623-636
    Number of pages14
    JournalWildlife Research
    Volume44
    Issue number8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

    Fingerprint

    culling (plants)
    culling
    deer
    seedling growth
    seedling
    biomass
    experiment
    phytomass
    understory
    managers
    forest dynamics
    seedlings

    Cite this

    Ramsey, D. S. L., Forsyth, D. M., Veltman, C. J., Richardson, S. J., Allen, R. B., Allen, W. J., ... Todd, C. R. (2017). A management experiment reveals the difficulty of altering seedling growth and palatable plant biomass by culling invasive deer. Wildlife Research, 44(8), 623-636. https://doi.org/10.1071/WR16206
    Ramsey, David S.L. ; Forsyth, David M. ; Veltman, Clare J. ; Richardson, Sarah J. ; Allen, Robert B. ; Allen, Will J. ; Barker, Richard J. ; Bellingham, Peter J. ; Jacobson, Chris L. ; Nicol, Simon J. ; Robertson, Alastair W. ; Todd, Charles R. / A management experiment reveals the difficulty of altering seedling growth and palatable plant biomass by culling invasive deer. In: Wildlife Research. 2017 ; Vol. 44, No. 8. pp. 623-636.
    @article{6fe60d4f48a8433eb55c70b9755eb961,
    title = "A management experiment reveals the difficulty of altering seedling growth and palatable plant biomass by culling invasive deer",
    abstract = "Context There is concern that deer are shifting forests towards undesirable trajectories, and culling of deer is often advocated to mitigate these impacts. However, culling deer is expensive and sometimes controversial. To reliably ascertain whether such action is beneficial, management-scale experiments are needed. We conducted a management experiment to evaluate the benefits of culling deer in four New Zealand forests. Aims Our experiment tested the predictions that culling deer should increase (1) canopy tree seedling height relative growth rate (SHRGR), and (2) the foliar biomass of understorey species palatable to deer (FBP). Methods Each forest was divided into two 3600-ha areas, with deer culling randomly assigned to one area. Deer abundances were indexed using faecal pellet counts, and forest variables were measured at the start and end of the 8-year experiment. Deer were already at low abundance in one forest and were not culled there. We used structural equation modelling (SEM) with Bayesian variable selection to update our a priori graphical forest-deer model with data from all four forests. Key results Deer abundances were significantly reduced in one forest but increased or did not change in the other two forests in which deer culling occurred. Culling deer did not increase seedling height relative growth rate (SHRGR) or the foliar biomass of understorey species palatable to deer (FBP) in the three areas subject to deer culling compared with the three areas not subject to deer culling. SEM revealed no significant relationships between local-scale deer abundance and either SHRGR or FBP. Rather, tree basal area and the foliar biomass of unpalatable understorey species were important predictors of FBP and SHRGR, respectively, in some forests. Conclusions Our study revealed that culling deer, as currently practiced by New Zealand land managers, did not generate the desired responses in New Zealand forests, possibly due to deer not being culled to sufficiently low densities and/or because forest dynamics and abiotic drivers determined plant growth more than deer. Implications Managers should consider actions other than ineffective deer culling (e.g. creating canopy gaps) to alter the dynamics of New Zealand forests. Alternatively, managers will need to substantially increase culling effort above what is currently practised for this activity to substantially reduce deer populations and thus potentially alter forest dynamics.",
    keywords = "adaptive management, biological invasions, foliar biomass, herbivory, New Zealand, overabundance, seedling growth rate, ungulate impacts",
    author = "Ramsey, {David S.L.} and Forsyth, {David M.} and Veltman, {Clare J.} and Richardson, {Sarah J.} and Allen, {Robert B.} and Allen, {Will J.} and Barker, {Richard J.} and Bellingham, {Peter J.} and Jacobson, {Chris L.} and Nicol, {Simon J.} and Robertson, {Alastair W.} and Todd, {Charles R.}",
    year = "2017",
    month = "1",
    day = "1",
    doi = "10.1071/WR16206",
    language = "English",
    volume = "44",
    pages = "623--636",
    journal = "Australian Wildlife Research",
    issn = "1035-3712",
    publisher = "CSIRO",
    number = "8",

    }

    Ramsey, DSL, Forsyth, DM, Veltman, CJ, Richardson, SJ, Allen, RB, Allen, WJ, Barker, RJ, Bellingham, PJ, Jacobson, CL, Nicol, SJ, Robertson, AW & Todd, CR 2017, 'A management experiment reveals the difficulty of altering seedling growth and palatable plant biomass by culling invasive deer', Wildlife Research, vol. 44, no. 8, pp. 623-636. https://doi.org/10.1071/WR16206

    A management experiment reveals the difficulty of altering seedling growth and palatable plant biomass by culling invasive deer. / Ramsey, David S.L.; Forsyth, David M.; Veltman, Clare J.; Richardson, Sarah J.; Allen, Robert B.; Allen, Will J.; Barker, Richard J.; Bellingham, Peter J.; Jacobson, Chris L.; Nicol, Simon J.; Robertson, Alastair W.; Todd, Charles R.

    In: Wildlife Research, Vol. 44, No. 8, 01.01.2017, p. 623-636.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - A management experiment reveals the difficulty of altering seedling growth and palatable plant biomass by culling invasive deer

    AU - Ramsey, David S.L.

    AU - Forsyth, David M.

    AU - Veltman, Clare J.

    AU - Richardson, Sarah J.

    AU - Allen, Robert B.

    AU - Allen, Will J.

    AU - Barker, Richard J.

    AU - Bellingham, Peter J.

    AU - Jacobson, Chris L.

    AU - Nicol, Simon J.

    AU - Robertson, Alastair W.

    AU - Todd, Charles R.

    PY - 2017/1/1

    Y1 - 2017/1/1

    N2 - Context There is concern that deer are shifting forests towards undesirable trajectories, and culling of deer is often advocated to mitigate these impacts. However, culling deer is expensive and sometimes controversial. To reliably ascertain whether such action is beneficial, management-scale experiments are needed. We conducted a management experiment to evaluate the benefits of culling deer in four New Zealand forests. Aims Our experiment tested the predictions that culling deer should increase (1) canopy tree seedling height relative growth rate (SHRGR), and (2) the foliar biomass of understorey species palatable to deer (FBP). Methods Each forest was divided into two 3600-ha areas, with deer culling randomly assigned to one area. Deer abundances were indexed using faecal pellet counts, and forest variables were measured at the start and end of the 8-year experiment. Deer were already at low abundance in one forest and were not culled there. We used structural equation modelling (SEM) with Bayesian variable selection to update our a priori graphical forest-deer model with data from all four forests. Key results Deer abundances were significantly reduced in one forest but increased or did not change in the other two forests in which deer culling occurred. Culling deer did not increase seedling height relative growth rate (SHRGR) or the foliar biomass of understorey species palatable to deer (FBP) in the three areas subject to deer culling compared with the three areas not subject to deer culling. SEM revealed no significant relationships between local-scale deer abundance and either SHRGR or FBP. Rather, tree basal area and the foliar biomass of unpalatable understorey species were important predictors of FBP and SHRGR, respectively, in some forests. Conclusions Our study revealed that culling deer, as currently practiced by New Zealand land managers, did not generate the desired responses in New Zealand forests, possibly due to deer not being culled to sufficiently low densities and/or because forest dynamics and abiotic drivers determined plant growth more than deer. Implications Managers should consider actions other than ineffective deer culling (e.g. creating canopy gaps) to alter the dynamics of New Zealand forests. Alternatively, managers will need to substantially increase culling effort above what is currently practised for this activity to substantially reduce deer populations and thus potentially alter forest dynamics.

    AB - Context There is concern that deer are shifting forests towards undesirable trajectories, and culling of deer is often advocated to mitigate these impacts. However, culling deer is expensive and sometimes controversial. To reliably ascertain whether such action is beneficial, management-scale experiments are needed. We conducted a management experiment to evaluate the benefits of culling deer in four New Zealand forests. Aims Our experiment tested the predictions that culling deer should increase (1) canopy tree seedling height relative growth rate (SHRGR), and (2) the foliar biomass of understorey species palatable to deer (FBP). Methods Each forest was divided into two 3600-ha areas, with deer culling randomly assigned to one area. Deer abundances were indexed using faecal pellet counts, and forest variables were measured at the start and end of the 8-year experiment. Deer were already at low abundance in one forest and were not culled there. We used structural equation modelling (SEM) with Bayesian variable selection to update our a priori graphical forest-deer model with data from all four forests. Key results Deer abundances were significantly reduced in one forest but increased or did not change in the other two forests in which deer culling occurred. Culling deer did not increase seedling height relative growth rate (SHRGR) or the foliar biomass of understorey species palatable to deer (FBP) in the three areas subject to deer culling compared with the three areas not subject to deer culling. SEM revealed no significant relationships between local-scale deer abundance and either SHRGR or FBP. Rather, tree basal area and the foliar biomass of unpalatable understorey species were important predictors of FBP and SHRGR, respectively, in some forests. Conclusions Our study revealed that culling deer, as currently practiced by New Zealand land managers, did not generate the desired responses in New Zealand forests, possibly due to deer not being culled to sufficiently low densities and/or because forest dynamics and abiotic drivers determined plant growth more than deer. Implications Managers should consider actions other than ineffective deer culling (e.g. creating canopy gaps) to alter the dynamics of New Zealand forests. Alternatively, managers will need to substantially increase culling effort above what is currently practised for this activity to substantially reduce deer populations and thus potentially alter forest dynamics.

    KW - adaptive management

    KW - biological invasions

    KW - foliar biomass

    KW - herbivory

    KW - New Zealand

    KW - overabundance

    KW - seedling growth rate

    KW - ungulate impacts

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85042855817&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    U2 - 10.1071/WR16206

    DO - 10.1071/WR16206

    M3 - Article

    VL - 44

    SP - 623

    EP - 636

    JO - Australian Wildlife Research

    JF - Australian Wildlife Research

    SN - 1035-3712

    IS - 8

    ER -