Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources


Guynn, David C.


The impact of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herbivory on forest ecosystems has received more attention as deer populations continue to increase in many areas. We investigated the effects of deer herbivory on plant communities in three different geographic regions to increase the general knowledge of herbivory impacts and also to investigate specific regional effects where research has been lacking.
Twelve exclosures were constructed in clearcut hardwood stands on the Clemson Experimental Forest, SC. Sapling, seedling, and understory species richness (S), Shannon's Diversity Index (H'), and Evenness (J') were compared between exclosures and paired control plots after the first and second growing seasons post harvest. Also, percentage coverage for vines, forbs, grass, and woody vegetation were compared. There were no significant differences (α=0.05) in vegetation between the exclosures and control plots. In addition, vegetation was compared in mature upland hardwood stands between two levels of deer density: relatively high density and relatively moderate density. Plots were located in mature upland hardwood stands. Seedling S, and sapling S and H' were significantly greater in the area of moderate deer density (p=0.0461, p=0.0343 and p=0.0186, repectively). Woody percentage coverage was higher in 2005 than 2006 (p=0.0097) without regard to deer density, and vine percentage coverage was higher in 2006 than 2005 (p=0.0040) without regard to deer density. None of the vegetation groups' percentage coverage was significantly influenced by deer density. The exclosures will need to be monitored for at least ten years in order to get more sufficient data to make inferences on the effects of deer herbivory. Also, disturbance such as fire may be needed along with long-term monitoring in the mature stands before inferences can be made on herbivory impacts to vegetation.