Snakes, salamanders and insects thrive in areas with higher deer populations

October 21st, 2008 - 5:16 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Oct 21 (ANI): A new study has determined that reducing the number of deer in forests and parks may unexpectedly reduce the number of snakes, salamanders and insects in that area, thus suggesting that these creatures thrive in areas with higher deer populations.

The study was carried out by researchers at Ohio State University and National Park Service, who found that higher deer activity is modifying forest ecosystems in unexpected ways.

Out of several species of snakes, salamanders, and invertebrates studied, a greater diversity of animals were found in areas with deer populations than were in areas with no deer activity.

The study, which comes at a time when many states in the US have begun to selectively control deer populations, challenges previous research that has suggested deer populations can negatively impact forest ecosystems through eating plants that many smaller animals may depend on.

The areas with higher deer populations may appear to lack the high variety of low-lying plants found in exclosures, but the deer may be creating a richer soil mixture through their droppings.

This rich soil may be benefiting some plants in the area, which in turn is attracting a larger diversity of insects and invertebrates.

Instead, researchers found that high numbers of deer may in fact be attracting a greater number of species.

This may be because their waste creates a more nutrient-rich soil and as a result, areas with deer draw higher numbers of insects and other invertebrates.

These insects then attract larger predators, which thrive on insect lava such as salamanders, and the salamanders in turn attract even larger predators such as snakes.

The results highlight how recent attempts to control deer populations in and around forests may indirectly affect other animals in the forest.

By just reducing the number of deer in the forest, were actually indirectly impacting forest ecosystems without even knowing the possible effects, said Katherine Greenwald, co-author of the study and doctoral student in evolution, ecology, and organismal biology at Ohio State.

Smaller creatures like salamanders and insects are all part of the base of a larger food web that can be affected by small changes, she added.

According to Greenwald, We need to be aware of whats happening in these forest ecosystems. Culling deer may cascade into affecting plants, salamanders, and other creatures in ways we cant even imagine.

So before we start removing deer, we should study whats really happening in these areas because there are a whole host of other issues that go along with culling, she added. (ANI)

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