Queens University of Charlotte. Carrie DeJaco et al. 1. Introduction The deer population in the Southeast has reached its highest levels in history within recent years. Deer, as
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Carrie DeJaco et al.
The deer population in the Southeast has reached its highest levels in history within recent years. Deer, as
primary consumers, play an intricate part in forest ecology and could threaten the stability of native wildflower populations.
We hypothesized that herbivory by white-tailed deer (Odocoileusvirginianus) significantly affects population structure, size distribution, and fitness of spring wildflower populations. This experiment utilizes exclosures to determine effects of herbivory on wildflowers in a forest environment in Gaston County, North Carolina.
Our study sites are within the conserved lands of Redlair which lies along the South Fork of the Catawba River. The area contains Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, Dry-Mesic Oak--Hickory Forest, and Dry Oak--Hickory Forest, as well as fields and piedmont prairies, steep ravines, and uplands.
In this year, the first year of what we intend to be a long-term research project, we primarily surveyed and mapped spring wildflower populations.
The first step of the project was to find areas that had dense populations of wildflowers. These areas were marked
with spray-painted re-bar so that the re-bar would stand out against the vegetation. Unknown wildflowers were identified using primarily Peterson’s Wildflowers of the Northeastern/North Central North America and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.
Two test exclosures were built near a stream to see if the structures would withstand animal activity and weather.
If the design of these test exclosures proves to be durable, 10 additional exclosures will be constructed this summer in areas chosen for their wildflower densities and diversity.
BIOL 304 Ecology, Spring ’08 Class project- Mapping Wildflower Populations at Redlair PreservebyStephen Bell, Ryan Connelly, Nicole Hoekstra, and Nina Searcy(with a bit of guidance from Dr. Carrie DeJaco)
Map of Redlair Preserve
We identified 33 species of wildflowers at Redlair from Feb. 6 to March 27, 2008, 21 of which flowered during this
period. Rue anemone (Thalictrumthalictroides), bloodroot (Sanguinariacanadensis), violet (Viola sororia), and round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica americana) were the most abundant species. Species diversity was greater in bottomland areas, although this relationship was not statistically significant (p=0.068, t-test). 7 of the 33 species were non-native, and there were more native species of wildflowers in bottomland areas (=4.8 native, 2.8 non-native) than in upland areas (=3.2 native, 3.0 non-native).
Significant evidence of herbivory on spring wildflowers was not observed; however, 2 species that were expected to be present were never seen. These 2 species (Trillium grandiflorum and Claytonia virginica) are known to be highly palatable to deer and we hypothesize that these species have been previously extirpated from the site by chronic deer herbivory.
We identified 33 species of spring wildflowers, the majority of which were found at higher densities in areas near
streams. Two exclosures were constructed to test their durability and design. Ten sites have been selected for future studies examining effects of white-tailed deer herbivory on spring wildflowers. The exclosures will also provide the opportunity for protected re-emergence or colonization of unobserved (potentially palatable) species, provided there is still a seed bank present.
Conducting our initial survey of Redlair Preserve has allowed us to map out sites of high wildflower densities and collect information on wildflower abundances, habitat descriptions, and specific locations. This detailed information will be beneficial, not only to our study, but to future studies of wildflowers at Redlair Preserve. The survey will also be an important tool for land management in the monitoring and protection of spring wildflower populations.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the Rankin family for allowing us access to this property; and Siobhan for always leading us home.
New invasives to tackle