Grazing deer ‘good for forests’

Hungry deer should not be barred from grazing in protected native forests, botanists have urged.

A decades-long study of national parks in Ireland has found that grazing deer in oak woodlands is actually good for diversity and helps prevent some plants from taking over the valuable ecosystem.

Researchers found that if red and sika deer and the red-sika hybrid are fenced off, or shot in annual culls as a way of protecting the forest, it becomes significantly less diverse.

But botanists from the School of Natural Sciences in Trinity College Dublin warned that attempts to reintroduce deer should be in moderation, as uncontrolled grazing will also have a damaging effect on the woods.

A network of seven experimental deer “exclosures” were surveyed periodically in three national parks in Ireland over 41 years to try to explain how woods grow and change over time.

The sites inside protected oak woodlands in the Wicklow Mountains, Killarney, Co Kerry, and Glenveagh, Donegal, revealed the surprising results that stopping hungry deer from munching on plants actually decreases floral biodiversity.

Researcher Dr Miles Newman said deer grazing at the correct level is highly important for the conservation of native oak woodlands.

“Our results certainly have implications for the management of these woodlands as future policy should focus on managing deer — rather than simply excluding them — as part of the overall biodiversity objective,” he said.

“We are now working on the next step to identify what the optimal level of deer grazing may be.”

The results of the study are published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

They show that when deer are blocked from semi-natural oak woodlands, the composition and abundance of forest-floor plants is greatly changed.

Meanwhile, Noel Grimes, of the Kerry Deer Society, had dismissed claims made at Kerry County Council that deer are carriers of TB which affects cattle.

He agreed with the Department of Agriculture that deer are not responsible for the spread of TB among cattle and told people making claims to calm down, to stop looking for excuses and get a few facts correct.

“Could it be that cattle are passing TB on to deer?’’ he asked.

Mr Grimes also agreed that something positive needed to be done about the deer situation — and called for a national count of deer.

‘’Some areas are over-run by deer, while there are very few deer in more areas.

“If we had the figures, something could then be done about the problem,’’ he said.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

More in this Section

Interim payout of €3.5m over birth injury

US claims over Cork to Boston route false, says mayor

Proposed Limerick bridge ‘would encourage suicide’

Ex-surgeon duped into being €100k drug mule


You might also like

Breaking Stories

LE Róisín starts Mediterranean mission to rescue refugees from sea

Man attacked with hammer leaving Belfast cemetery

Harcourt Square garda station to close in weeks - but 1,000 staff still don't know where they're transferring to

People feel afraid, and gardaí are under-resourced in fight against gangland crime: McDonald

Lifestyle

European design is flourishing in Aoife Hayes’ store in Newcastle West

Landscape gardener and designer, Olive Ryan, gives a masterclass on how to give your garden the ultimate makeover

Here's a taste of what’s to come at the Litfest HQ in Ballymaloe Cookery School, Cork

From Captain Kirk to the face of Armani – how Chris Pine made it to the A-list

More From The Irish Examiner