Monday, June 15, 2015

Update: Pennsylvania Deer Forest Study

Back in October of 2013 I first reported on a new deer forest study being launched by Pennsylvania's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. This research will help Pennsylvania’s forest and game managers better understand how deer affect forests so they can make better management decisions.

Deer-Forest Blog:
To keep up on the study findings check out their blog. posts are made periodically with some very informative findings. The first post was made to the blog in June 2013 and the latest being today. Today's post was entitled "So Why Did the Deer Cross the Road?"  You can also subscribe to the blog by providing your email address here.
About the Study:
Researchers from Penn State, U.S. Geological Survey, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry will be monitoring deer populations and forest changes in Rothrock, Bald Eagle, and Susquehannock State Forests. By carefully monitoring deer populations and diversity and growth rates of forests in these areas, this study will lead to a better understanding of the complex relationships between our state’s deer herd and the forest.

Deer are an important part of Pennsylvania’s forests. However, too many deer can change forests in ways we may not like — for example, by eating too many seedlings of some tree species. But deer are not the only issue. Forest managers have to deal with problems such as invasive plants, insect outbreaks, soil acidity, and tree diseases.

Four study areas, ranging in size from 25 to 40 square miles, have been selected. One pair of study areas is in the center of the state, in the Rothrock and Bald Eagle State Forests, and one pair is in the north, in the Susquehannock State Forest.

Deer in these study areas will be managed differently with the help of hunters.  Forest conditions will be monitored to see how they respond to real-world deer and forest management activities. During the study, researchers from Penn State, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry will carefully monitor deer populations and changes in the species mix and growth rates of plants in the study areas.

Fieldwork began in January 2013 with the capture and radio-collaring of deer. During May-August 2013, eight field technicians began collecting vegetation data on 200 permanent plots (50 per study area).  These permanent plots will be revisited every other year.  Additional monitoring of areas with planned timber harvests will begin in 2014.

Current funding will support the project for the period 2013-2017. We expect to start to detect changes in vegetation in years 3 and 4 of this study. Ideally, this project should be continued beyond the initial 5-year study period to better understand how forest management conditions respond to management actions over many years.

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