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Keywords:

  • afforestation;
  • forested wetland;
  • insect infestation;
  • oak;
  • silviculture;
  • stand dynamics

Vegetation composition and forest stand development are frequently mediated by browsing herbivores. These relationships have received little attention in a forest restoration context even though White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is likely to influence these agriculture, forest, and restored ecosystem mosaic landscapes. Tree species composition, herbaceous vegetation, and deer browsing patterns were assessed 5 and 7 years following bottomland hardwood forest restoration on a 526-ha site in the Cache River watershed in southern Illinois, United States. Light-seeded tree species (Fraxinus pennsylvanica, Acer negundo, Liquidambar styraciflua, and Platanus occidentalis) of volunteer origin dominated the woody vegetation component, with especially high stocking and density near existing forest cover and potential seed sources. At more distant locations, presumably planted Quercus spp. were more likely to dominate and were the only tree species found in 15% of plots in year 7. Quercus stocking increased over the course of the study, constituting 7% of trees during year 7. Deer herbivory was associated with reduced stem height and disproportionately impacted seedlings of Quercus palustris and Celtis spp. Our results suggest that deer browsing influences forest stand composition and density as a function of distance from the nearest forest edge. Herbaceous vegetation had little impact on early stand development. Continued spread of the exotic and invasive Lonicera japonica and potential mortality of F. pennsylvanica due to an anticipated Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) epidemic, combined with low stand density and delayed canopy closure, may result in persistent overstory gaps and compromise long-term restoration success.