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

I will shoot you dead, Limerick bus driver told

GSOC probe into Garda whistleblower’s complaint delayed two years over files

Fianna Fáil ‘has more positions on water than kama sutra’

Ombudsman faced delays when handling complaints relating to Tusla


Breaking Stories

Justice Minister 'absolutely open' to holding talks with garda officials

Eyes to the sky: Northern Lights to be visible from Ireland tonight

Mental Health First Aid training is being offered for the first time in Ireland

High Court asked to review permission for Apple data centre in Galway

Lifestyle

Space Week is an out of this world chance for families to experience the night sky

Wayfarers: A composition written as a response to the 1916 Rising

Knights in shining armour: Irish full-contact medieval combat team set to showcase skills

Angelina Jolie hiring the best divorce lawyer in the business - Laura Alison Wasser

More From The Irish Examiner