Date of this Version
Overpopulation of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is a problem adversely affecting the ecological health of eastern deciduous forests in the United States, including those in southeastern Pennsylvania. Trampling and herbivory have led to the loss of native understory and ground cover species and expedited the invasion of aggressive exotic plants. The use of deer exclosure fencing has become common practice as a method of protecting vulnerable sites from these impacts. In 2016, an exclosure was installed in the Penn’s Woods section of Morris Arboretum’s natural lands with the hopes of facilitating forest restoration and learning about the response of the plant community. This project was designed as a comprehensive survey to establish a baseline record of plant species present within the exclosure so that changes in species composition can be monitored over time. In order to organize this inventory, a grid system of 22 plots was created and mapped using a GPS device and ArcGIS software. The herbaceous and woody plant layers within each plot were surveyed and documented. Statistical analysis was used to identify the most ecologically significant plants. In addition, photographs were taken of each plot and of the tree canopy in both winter and spring, so that these can be repeated over time to visualize changes to the canopy and understory layers. This data will be available to the manager of the Morris Arboretum natural lands and may be referenced for planning and restoration efforts going forward. Strategic corners of the grid were permanently marked so that it may be easily rebuilt and this inventory can be replicated at regular intervals in the future. Information gleaned from these surveys will afford a better understanding for how the exclusion of white-tailed deer impacts the forest ecology, and can inform future uses of deer exclosures on the property for habitat improvement.
Date Posted: 31 July 2019