Forestry and Natural Resources

Effects of white-tailed deer herbivory on upland hardwood plant communities in the Piedmont of South Carolina

Publication Date

Fall 11-18-2020

Publication Number

LGP 1099


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is an important game species and the largest native herbivore in South Carolina. Deer populations have rapidly rebounded in the last 50 years resulting in browse lines, reduced regeneration of overstory tree species, and in some circumstances, extirpation of preferred deer browse species. The impact of white-tailed deer has been studied throughout much of its northern range, but there has been little long-term research into the impact of deer on forests and plant communities in the Southeast. This study measures impacts of deer herbivory 13 years after clearcutting six upland hardwood stands in the Clemson Experimental Forest by comparing plant communities inside and outside exclosures. An initial study conducted 1 year after the clearcut concluded that deer herbivory had no impact on the plant communities. To determine the long-term impacts of herbivory, the plots were surveyed 13 years later. The survey determined that there was significantly greater plant species richness outside the exclosures compared to inside (pp>0.1). Both treatments had a similar number of invasive species (p>0.1). There was significantly higher vine regeneration inside the exclosures (pLonicera japonica) was reduced outside of the exclosures (p 10cm DBH compared to the plots inside exclosures (p

Publication Type

Short Communication


Land-Grant Press by Clemson Extension

Publisher City

Clemson, SC

Target Audiences

wildlife biologists, foresters, landowners