|Targeted News Service|
Too much garlic mustard growing in the forests of
A new study published online in the Proceedings of the
"Our findings show that there is a link between disruption of the native animal community and invasion by non-native plant species," said
Deer density in the U.S. is about four to 10 times what it was prior to European settlement of
The study was initiated in 2003 at the Trillium Trail Nature Reserve in
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a plant native to
Instead, it became a menace, colonizing forest floors in the Eastern U.S. and
To study the effect of rampant deer on trillium and garlic mustard populations, the researchers established multiple 196-square-meter plots in the forest. Half were fenced to exclude deer. Years of observation and hours of statistical analysis later, the team found that in plots where deer were excluded, the trillium population is increasing, and the garlic mustard population is trending toward zero.
"This demonstrates that the high population growth rate of the invader is caused by the high abundance of deer," said
"When people walk in the woods where deer are overabundant, they don't realize what's missing," Kalisz said. "They don't know what used to be growing there. They don't know that species are being lost and replaced by invaders."
The solution seems simple, then: reduce deer populations, restore natives and prevent invasion. "It's not simple," Kalisz said. "Deer management policies vary from state to state and deer don't respect political boundaries." Some states keep deer populations low, while others prefer to maintain higher populations to appeal to groups such as hunters. "Yet, deer exact a toll not only on forest species, but also farms, orchards, and even your car and your car insurance rate," Kalisz says.
The study is titled "In a long-term demographic experiment, excluding ungulates reversed invader's explosive population growth rate and restored natives." (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/03/05/1310121111)
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