In 2006, an assessment was made of 51 mixed hardwood-conifer CRP plantations. Plantations assessed were 10-16 years old and located in eight counties. In many plantations, deer browse has significantly impacted the growth and survival of hardwood seedlings. Preferential browsing of hardwoods has resulted in many plantations being dominated by conifers and overall stocking tends to be low.
Following are preliminary graphs demonstrating preferential browsing and problems with achieving successful hardwood regeneration in plantations.
- Recent deer browse damage was frequently observed on young hardwoods, especially red oak. However, these trees were already 10-16 years old; it is likely that significantly more browse damage and seedling mortality occurred in these plantations at younger ages. Early seedling damage and specific causes of mortality were difficult to assess.
- Preferential browsing frequently results in retarded hardwood growth and often enables conifers to assert dominance in mixed plantings.
- Preferential and sustained browsing of hardwoods can contribute to seedling mortality. In mixed plantings, this often results in conifer dominance and understocked plantations.
While reflecting the highly variable nature of deer impacts across landscapes, the graphs also clearly demonstrate widespread, significant impacts of deer on new plantations.