Deer population and forest change
Don Waller, professor of botany, has studied deer impacts on plant communities for over two decades. In a recent study, his team estimated that more than 40 percent of 50-year changes in the abundance of forest plants in northern Wisconsin reflect herbivory by white-tailed deer. They analyzed populations inside and outside fenced deer exclosures and compared these differences to long-term changes observed across the region. Many of the plants commonly seen in the 1950s that are now scarce grow best when protected within fenced areas. Another recent study found that deer greatly affect the ability of tree seedlings in forests in northern Wisconsin to survive and grow into the forest canopy in 8 of 10 species they examined.