Pervasive interactions between ungulate browsers and disturbance regimes promote temperate forest herbaceous diversity
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Ecology. 91(1): 93-105.
Disruptions to historic disturbance and herbivory regimes have altered plant assemblages in forests worldwide. An emerging consensus suggests that these disruptions often result in impoverished forest biotas. This is particularly true for eastern U.S. deciduous forests where large gaps and understory fires were once relatively common and browsers were far less abundant. Although much research has focused on how disturbance and browsers affect tree diversity, far less attention has been devoted to forest understories where the vast majority (>75%) of the vascular species reside. Here we test the hypothesis that the reintroduction of disturbances resembling historic disturbance regimes and moderate levels of ungulate browsing enhance plant diversity. We explore whether once-common disturbances and their interaction with the top-down influence of browsers can create conditions favorable for the maintenance of a rich herbaceous layer in a region recognized as a temperate biodiversity hotspot in West Virginia, USA.
KeywordsBrowsing canopy gaps deciduous forest fire herbaceous species Odocoileus virginianus understory West Virginia USA white-tailed deer
Royo, Alejandro A.; Collins, Rachel; Adams, Mary Beth; Kirschbaum, Chad; Carson, Walter P. 2010. Pervasive interactions between ungulate browsers and disturbance regimes promote temperate forest herbaceous diversity. Ecology. 91(1): 93-105.