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Abstract Detail

Ecological Section

Wilkins, Shane [1], Tomat-Kelly, Giovanna [1], Morrison, Janet A. [2].

Variation in the abundance of a spring ephemeral wildflowers in deer-ridden suburban forests.

The abundance of spring ephemeral wildflowers varies widely among suburban forests. We studied wildflower populations, including Claytonia virginica (spring beauties) and others, within six deciduous forest stands in central New Jersey. The forests are all in a region with over-abundant white-tailed deer (est. 21 deer/km2), yet abundance of deer resistant C. virginica varied dramatically among them. We quantified the forests’ levels of chronic deer pressure by measuring native shrub layer cover, and quantified current deer pressure with browse signs on native woody plants. Censuses of spring wildflowers in 40 16 m2 plots per forest showed that Claytonia virginica was nearly absent from the three forests with lower chronic deer pressure, but was abundant in the forests with higher chronic deer pressure. Forests with severe deer pressure contain almost no shrub layer, leaving the spring ephemeral guild of plants as a primary food source in the early spring. This may allow for competitive release of wildflower species that are deer resistant, like C. virginica. Among the forests with severe chronic browse, C. virginica cover can still vary significantly; we observed greater cover in the forest with the greatest chronic pressure (Rosedale). However, Rosedale also had the lowest current deer browse, likely because there are hardly any quality browse plants left. In heavily deer-ridden forests with very few green plant species in the early spring, deer may have to turn to resistant plants, but they may escape this fate in forests like Rosedale, where deer feeding browse rates have become very low. Variation in spring ephemeral abundance may also be explained by abiotic factors; a next step is to investigate the influence of soil moisture level and its relationship to soil compaction caused by overabundant deer trampling.

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1 - The College of New Jersey, Department of Biology, P.O. Box 7718, Ewing, NJ, 08628, United States
2 - The College Of New Jersey, Department Of Biology, P.O. Box 7718, Ewing, NJ, 08628, USA

spring wildflowers
White-tailed Deer
urban ecology.

Presentation Type: Poster:Posters for Sections
Session: P
Location: Eyrie/Boise Centre
Date: Monday, July 28th, 2014
Time: 5:30 PM
Number: PEC005
Abstract ID:793
Candidate for Awards:Ecological Section Best Undergraduate Presentation Award

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