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Keywords:

  • browsing assessment methods;
  • deer;
  • forest understoreys;
  • impacts;
  • Seedling Ratio Method;
  • ungulates

Summary

The Seedling Ratio Method was devised to assess the impacts of introduced ungulates on plant species richness in forest understoreys. The method has successfully assessed ungulate impacts on species richness in forests in New Zealand and Hawaii, which do not have native herbivores. We tested the three critical assumptions that underlie this method to investigate its potential for use in an Australian ecosystem. This study was conducted in the Yarra Ranges National Park (YRNP), Victoria, which had a high-density population of an introduced deer species, Sambar (Cervus unicolor), in addition to several native herbivore species. One of the three key assumptions of the Seedling Ratio Method was not supported, whereas conventional differential exclosures showed clear and separate impacts by Sambar and native herbivores. We conclude that the Seedling Ratio Method could not provide a clear indication of browsing impact on forest understoreys in YRNP.