Conifer leader browsing by roe deer in English upland forests: Effects of deer density and understorey vegetation

Alastair I. Ward, Piran C. L. White, Neil J. Walker, Charles H. Critchley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At moderate to high densities ungulates can impact negatively on forest crops and these may be managed by lethal control. In production forestry an understanding of the relationship between ungulate density, habitat-related factors and the incidence of tree damage may promote more efficient ungulate damage management than by lethal control alone. In plantation forests in the north cast of England, the incidence of conifer leader browsing by roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) was positively associated with an index of deer density (at the site scale) and planted crop tree density (at the feeding patch scale) and was negatively associated with the relative abundance of palatable understorey vegetation (at the site scale). An interaction between the deer density index and palatable understorey browse abundance was positively associated with leader browsing. Coefficients from the optimal model were used to construct a browse probability surface across a matrix of values of deer dung density and palatable understorey vegetation abundance. This illustrated a very different relationship between dung density and conifer leader browsing probability across the various levels of palatable understorey vegetation abundance. From this we hypothesise that in areas of limited palatable understorey vegetation abundance, higher levels of culling may be required to achieve reductions in the incidence of conifer leader browsing than would be necessary in areas with moderate to high palatable understorey vegetation abundance. Improvements to understorey vegetation in concert with roe deer population control may enhance the efficiency of deer damage management in upland areas with nutrient-poor soils. Crown Copyright (C) 2008 Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1338
Number of pages6
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2008


  • Capreolus capreolus
  • culling
  • habitat management
  • DIET

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