Using camera traps to quantify the effect of deer on woodland restoration

Project Details


Woodland is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth and an important habitatfor many wildlife species. However, long-term deforestation worldwide has adversely impactedbiodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Over recent decades deforestation rates have slowed,particularly in temperate regions where large-scale woodland planting schemes have greatlycontributed to woodland expansion. However, we know surprisingly little about the factors likely toenhance biodiversity in newly planted woodlands. This is because studying woodlands oversufficiently large spatio-temporal scales required to detect species responses to habitat restorationis challenging. Deer can drastically alter woodland structure and development through browsingseedlings, limiting tree recruitment and affecting natural regeneration. In addition, changes inwoodland structure as a result of deer damage can cascade to other woodland species andinfluence the biodiversity value of planted woodlands. Woodland-associated species are alsolikely to be influenced by other local- (e.g. patch size and age) and landscape-level factors (e.g.amount and spatial configuration of semi-natural habitats). In this project, we will conduct cameratrapping surveys in an existing network of woodland sites (a chrono-sequence of 106 woodlandpatches planted between 10-150 years ago across England and Scotland, forming part of theWrEN project) and utilise extensive existing datasets from the WrEN project to 1) assess howlocal- and landscape-level attributes influence patterns of woodland use by deer; 2) quantify theimpact of deer on woodland vegetation characteristics, and 3) assess potential cascading effectson woodland biodiversity. Our findings will improve our understanding of deer ecology and providecrucial scientific evidence to underpin deer management strategies, for instance by identifyinglocal and landscape characteristics associated with high deer densities, and by quantifying therelative effects of deer grazing (and the importance of deer management) in relation to otherconservation actions for biodiversity.
Effective start/end date1/03/2128/02/23