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The oak browsing index correlates linearly with roe deer density: a new indicator for deer management?

Abstract : Increasing populations of large herbivores during the last decades have had a major impact on vegetation. While several studies have looked for quantifying this impact in terms of plant biomass, plant survival or financial costs, the potential benefit of using the response of the vegetation to changes in browsing pressure by large herbivores to monitor their populations has been poorly investigated. As getting accurate estimates of density in populations of large herbivores is problematic, the use of indicators measuring the intensity of browsing might offer reliable alternative to managers. From the intensive monitoring of a roe deer population subject to an experimental manipulation of density, we looked for assessing the response of oak to changes of roe deer population size. Using a simple browsing index calculated from field data over 10 years, we found that this oak browsing index linearly increased with increasing population size of roe deer. This suggests that such an oak browsing index might be a reliable indicator of ecological change for monitoring roe deer populations in oak forests with natural regeneration.
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T. Chevrier, S. Saïd, O. Widmer, Jean-Pierre Hamard, C. Saint-Andrieux, et al.. The oak browsing index correlates linearly with roe deer density: a new indicator for deer management?. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 2012, 58 (1), pp.17--22. ⟨10.1007/s10344-011-0535-9⟩. ⟨hal-02296976⟩



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