Bryan Murray, a PhD candidate at Michigan Tech, and two faculty members, Professor Christopher Webster and Assistant Professor Joseph Bump, studied the effects on soil of the nitrogen-rich waste that white-tailed deer leave among stands of eastern hemlock, which are among their favorite wintering grounds in the harsh, snowy climate of northern Michigan. Webster and Bump are on the faculty of Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science.
They compared eastern hemlock stands where deer congregated to stands where deer were fenced out and found a strong relationship between the amount of soil nitrogen from the deer’s waste products and the kinds of plants that flourished there. Their research results were reported online in the journal Ecology, published by the Ecological Society of America.
“Altering the nitrogen availability in a hemlock stand may affect its ability to continue functioning as a deeryard by changing the types of plants that grow there,” said Murray, first author on the journal article titled “Broadening the ecological context of ungulate-ecosystem interactions: the importance of space, seasonality, and nitrogen.” For example, he said, “high inputs of nitrogen may hasten the transition of hemlock stands to hardwood species that provide scant winter cover.”
During cold northern winters, deer seek out stands of evergreens with dense crowns, such as eastern hemlock, northern white cedar and balsam fir. Such stands of trees are known as “deeryards.” They are thought to provide refuge from deep snow and blustery winds and to help deer hide from predators, Murray explained.
Deer instinctively seek deeryards, but their choice of location is knowledge passed from mother to fawn. Thus deeryards that are traditional favorites can harbor 100 deer or more per square mile, creating hotspots of high-nitrogen-content waste.
Long ago, before logging enabled the white-tailed deer to move further and further north and before the deer population explosion more recently experienced, the ecosystem stayed balanced because there were plenty of deeryards and fewer deer. Now more deer are crowding into less winter cover, shifting the dynamic balance of nature.
The Michigan Tech research demonstrates that the relationship of deer to their habitat is more complex than just the plants they eat, Webster said. “Our hope is that by better understanding the links between habitat use and spatial patterning of resources and plants in survivng hemlock stands we can identify sustainable management strategies for this critical resource.”
“It was fascinating to discover such complex interactions, which have implications for sustainable management, in a seemingly simple ecosystem,” Murray added.
Michigan Technological University (www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.Bryan Murray
Bryan Murray | Newswise
Machine learning helps predict worldwide plant-conservation priorities
04.12.2018 | Ohio State University
From the Arctic to the tropics: researchers present a unique database on Earth’s vegetation
20.11.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals
Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.
Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.
Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...
Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.
The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.
06.12.2018 | Event News
03.12.2018 | Event News
28.11.2018 | Event News
07.12.2018 | Life Sciences
07.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
07.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy