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Less Is More: Vegetation Community Changes Coincide with White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Suppression Over 30 Years at Long Point, Ontario, Canada

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Title: Less Is More: Vegetation Community Changes Coincide with White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Suppression Over 30 Years at Long Point, Ontario, Canada
Author: Pickering, Joshua
Department: Department of Integrative Biology
Program: Integrative Biology
Advisor: Norris, Ryan
Abstract: I examined several hypotheses to explain the significant increase in species diversity and shifts in the species composition of vegetation communities associated with the suppression of white-tailed deer from 1992 – 2021 at Long Point, Ontario, Canada. In support of the All-You-Can-Browse Hypothesis, in the first three years of sampling, the abundance of woody stems above the browse layer did not increase but, consistent within an expected period of recruitment, increased by > 1,500% from 1995 – 2021. I found strong support for both the Lawn Maintenance Hypothesis, with a significant decline in the proportional abundance of non-preferred species relative to preferred species, and for the Seed Bank/Source Hypothesis, with native species accounting for nearly 80% of ‘new’ species observed over the sampling period. While this study did not have experimental controls, I present evidence that suppression of white-tailed deer can lead to increased vegetation community heterogeneity and regeneration of native species.
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10214/27226
Date: 2022-09
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