Marcon, Andrea (2016) Analysis of the relationships between wild ungulates and forest in the Northern Apennines, Italy. Doctoral Thesis.
I explored some ecological aspects of the interaction between wild ungulates and forest environment. I reviewed the existent literature on the topic, and I found the relationship to be part of a extended ecological network, that includes several biotic and abiotic factors. The most advocated cause for elevated ungulate impact on forest is ungulate overabundance. Hence, I assessed the precision and applicability of three different census methods (drive census, pellet-group count, camera trapping method – REM) for roe deer in a mountainous forest. I found the R.E.M. method to be the best compromise, with intermediate precision and low demands. Moreover, I analyzed the browsing pressure of roe deer in several areas over a density gradient. I found the impact to be directly related to densities, and that the early-stage effects of browsing pressure will result in long-term differences in volume, between browsed and unbrowsed trees, even several years later the clear-cutting. Finally, to understand the effects of roe deer impact on the forest development, I used a forest development model (LANDIS-II) to simulate 200 years of forest development, considering harvesting and roe deer impact. I found that both disturbances influence species richness, abundance, and forest structure. Roe deer impact does not significantly affect harvesting yield, and the disturbances combined do not seem to represent an hazard for forest functionality.
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