Arboreal composition changes following white-tailed deer restoration to urban park forests without off-trail park visitor trampling

Robert E. Loeb, Jesse Germeraad, Laura Griffin, Steve Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Human trampling destroys seedlings and saplings without regard to species in urban park forests and the addition of deer browsing compounds the losses. The unexamined research question is: what is the effect of white deer browsing in the absence of human trampling? Radnor Lake State Natural Area, Nashville, TN, USA has been protected from off-pathway human transit since 1973 and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmerman) were restored to the Natural Area in 1980. From 1976 to 2007, a plot with tagged trees in the mesic slope forest showed the tree population for 16 species decreased, two remained stable, and one increased. The pattern of increase for sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh) was 57 new trees added but 46 trees were lost, which appears as a population increase from 1976 to 1996 and a decrease in 2007. In all five forest communities, the total tree stems per ha declined from 1974 to 2008. During the period 1994-2008, O. virginianus over browsing decimated the seedling population of all species and caused the total for stems per ha for saplings to become smaller than the total stems per ha for trees in each community except the ravine forest, which had the greatest loss of trees. The only consistent change in trees across the five communities when comparing 1974-2008 was the significant tree importance value increase for A. saccharum. The conflicting significant changes for major species, other than A. saccharum, across the Natural Area forest communities informs management for other urban park forests-browsing by O. virginianus results in increased numbers for trees and saplings in the communities the species are well adapted to grow and reproduce in and fewer trees and saplings in the communities with environmental conditions that are not well suited to the species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-310
Number of pages6
JournalUrban Forestry and Urban Greening
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


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