iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Understory vegetation dynamics and tree regeneration as affected by deer herbivory in temperate hardwood forests

Lisa Laurent (1)   , Anders Mårell (1), Philippe Balandier (1), Hubert Holveck (2), Sonia Saïd (3)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 10, Issue 5, Pages 837-844 (2017)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2186-010
Published: Oct 26, 2017 - Copyright © 2017 SISEF

Research Articles

Plant competition and deer browsing are two main factors which limit tree recruitment. We examined natural tree-recruitment processes under continuous-tree-cover management. Changes in plant communities and tree regeneration were monitored over an eight-year period at two different sites in a temperate hardwood forest in the North-East of France. We used paired control plot (unfenced areas, free access to deer) and exclosures (fenced areas, excluding deer) at both sites. Shade-tolerant browsing-tolerant opportunistic species (beech, Fagus sylvatica at site 1 and bramble, Rubus spp. at site 2) were present in low numbers at the beginning of the study. We found that these species used a sit-and-wait strategy, waiting for opportunities to proliferate (thinning and deer exclusion). In the exclosure at site 1, beech proliferate slowly. In the exclosure at site 2, bramble proliferated enough during the first two growing seasons to prevent tree recruitment. Thus, fencing encouraged beech sapling or bramble growth, and this growth in turn was detrimental to the richness and diversity of the plant community. The two study cases presented show that both plant competition and deer browsing can be problematic for tree recruitment. Our results further suggest that excluding deer is not sufficient to enhance the growth of browse-sensitive and moderately shade-tolerant tree species such as oaks (Quercus petraea and Q. robur).


Understory Vegetation, Plant Interaction, Competition, Browsing, Forest Regeneration, Exclosure

Authors’ address

Lisa Laurent
Anders Mårell
Philippe Balandier
Institut National de Recherche en Sciences et Technologies pour l’Environnement et l’Agriculture (Irstea), Research Unit on Forest Ecosystems (EFNO), F-45290 Nogent-Sur-Vernisson (France)
Hubert Holveck
Office National des Forêts, 1, rue Person, BP 20132 67703 Saverne (France)
Sonia Saïd
Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, Direction Recherche et de l’Expertise, Unité Ongulés Sauvages, “Montfort”, 01330 Birieux (France)

Corresponding author

Lisa Laurent


Laurent L, Mårell A, Balandier P, Holveck H, Saïd S (2017). Understory vegetation dynamics and tree regeneration as affected by deer herbivory in temperate hardwood forests. iForest 10: 837-844. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2186-010

Academic Editor

Andrea Cutini

Paper history

Received: Aug 02, 2016
Accepted: Sep 05, 2017

First online: Oct 26, 2017
Publication Date: Oct 31, 2017
Publication Time: 1.70 months

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