Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Environmental Science and Policy
fire, forests, deer, oaks, trees, arboriculture, deer herbivory
In the past, oak was one of the most dominant species groups in the deciduous forests of the northeastern United States. More recently, a variety of factors, including interspecific competition, fire suppression and deer herbivory, have led to the decline of oaks. We studied how oaks regenerate and grow following a major disturbance, and how their growth interacts with deer herbivory. We measured the growth of seedlings of three tree species following the 1,200 hectare Overlook Fire that occurred in Minnewaska State Park, NY in April 2008. At each of three sites, we measured the growth of twenty Quercus prinus, Quercus rubra, and Sassafras albidum seedlings. Half of the individuals of each species were caged to prevent deer herbivory. The height of the seedlings and any evidence of herbivory were recorded in July, August, and September 2008. Several transects in each of the sites were used to determine species composition and relative abundance. The relative growth of Q. prinus varied by site – growth was highest where light levels were greatest (p < 0.01). This suggests that the Q. prinus grew better where fire-caused damage to the canopy was greatest. There was no significant difference in the relative growth of caged versus uncaged seedlings (p > 0.05). Overall, the abundance of S. albidum seedlings – frequently an early successional specialist – was greater than the abundance of either Quercus species. These results suggest that the severity of the damage to the canopy may influence the regeneration of oaks and that deer herbivory does not have a significant impact on their growth.
La Spina, Julie, "The Effects of Fire and Deer Herbivory on Oak Regeneration in an Eastern Deciduous Forest" (2009). Honors Theses. 1430.