Effects of Deer Browsing, Fabric Mats, and Tree Shelters on Quercus rubra Seedlings


  • Erik E. Stange Ret;Kathleen L. Shea


We examined the effects of deer browsing, fabric mats, and tree shelters on the growth and survival of Quercus rubra (northern red oak) seedlings planted as part of a reforestation project in southcentral Minnesota. Browsing by white-tailed deer occurred on 68.6% of the seedlings growing without tree shelters, whereas only 3.6% of the trees were browsed by mice or voles and 2.5% were browsed by rabbits. Fabric mats, used to control competition from herbaceous plants for roughly half of the seedlings included in the study, had a detrimental effect overall. Seedlings grown with mats had a greater frequency of deer browsing and a greater chance of dying than seedlings grown without mats. Stem height for seedlings browsed by deer was less overall than for nonbrowsed seedlings, although this pattern varied with use of fabric mats and plot location. The use of plastic tree shelters effectively prevented deer browsing and reduced the mortality rate from 34.6% to 3.2%. Our results indicate that fabric mats should not be used in restoration projects with large deer populations. They also suggest that planting seedlings away from existing forest edges and using seedling protection measures such as tree shelters will increase seedling survival and growth in future restoration projects.