The influence of the habitat on deer populations in the regenerated area after a large-scale forest fire – Jakub Borkowski

Jakub Borkowski. Instytut Badawczy Leśnictwa, Sękocin Stary 2009, ISBN978-83-87647-80-3, 72 pp. Price 18 EUR.

Abstract. The study was carried out in an area of 17,500 hectares in the territory of the Rudy Raciborskie Forest District where 5,000 hectares of forest was burned in the 1992 fire. In terms of food availability, the burned area, with dominant wood small-reed in the herbaceous layer, as well as pine and birch among woody species, was a lower-quality habitat in comparison with the surrounding unburned forest.

Roe deer density was twice as high as in the unburned forest which may have been the result of food availability in both areas. Red deer density depended more on vegetation which provided security cover for animals. It was poorer in the burned area where pine trees were short. The difference in density of red deer between the two areas disappeared when the trees in the burned area grew taller.

In general, habitat use by red and roe deer in both areas depended on security cover. It mattered more for red deer than for roe deer which, being a smaller species, could hide easier than the red deer. In the burned area, habitat use by red deer was determined by tree height, but was not in the case of roe deer. In the unburned forest, both species used their habitats in a similar way. No evidence of inter-specific influence of red deer on roe deer (as suggested by Latham et al., 1997) was found in this study. As expected, mature pine stands were an attractive habitat for deer.

The intensity of bark stripping in pre-thickets in the burned area was similar between naturally and artificially regenerated stands. In general, bark stripping intensity was influenced by security cover (expressed in tree height) and did not depend on tree density.
There was difference in the phenotypic quality of deer (body and antler weights) between both areas, especially in the case of roe deer; individuals shot in the unburned forest were heavier than their counterparts in the burned area. The phenotypic quality of deer was also influenced by weather conditions, mostly in spring: after cold and wet springs, deer were heavier than when springs were warm and wet.

Key words: Cervus elaphus, Capreolus capreolus, fire, habitat use, vegetation cover, winter, pine forest, interspecific competition, bark stripping, body weight, antler weight.

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