Research papers

Early and long-term impacts of browsing by roe deer in oak coppiced woods along a gradient of population density


Over the last few decades, wild ungulate populations have exhibited relevant geographic and demographic expansion in most European countries; roe deer is amongst the most widespread ungulate species. The increasing roe deer densities have led to strong impact on forest regeneration; the problem has been recently recognized in coppice woods, a silvicultural system which is widespread in Italy, where it amounts to about 56% of the total national forested area.

In this study we investigated the effect of roe deer browsing on the vegetative regeneration of Turkey oak few years after coppicing, along a gradient of roe deer density. A browsing index revealed that browsing impact was high at any given roe deer density but increased at higher density, with the browsing rate ranging from 65% to 79%. We also analyzed the long-term impact of browsing six and eleven years after coppicing under a medium roe deer density. Results indicated the early impact are not ephemeral but produced prolonged impacts through time, with an average reduction in volume of -57% and -41% six and eleven years after coppicing, respectively. Based on these results we proposed integrating browsing monitoring with roe deer density estimation to allow identifying ungulate densities which are compatible with silvicultural and forest management objectives. The proposed browsing index can be regarded as an effective management tool, on account of its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, being therefore highly suitable for routine, large scale monitoring of browsing impact.


Capreolus capreolus; Turkey oak; forest damage; stool; coppice forest

Full Text:




Amorini E., Brandini P., Fabbio G., Tabacchi G. 1998 – Modelli di previsione delle masse legnose e delle biomasse per i cedui di cerro della Toscana centro-meridionale. Annali dell’Istituto Sperimentale per la Selvicoltura 29: 41-56.

Apollonio M., Andersen R., Putman R. 2010 - European ungulates and their management in the 21th century. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Berquist J., Orlander G. 1998 - Browsing damage by roe deer on Norway spruce seedlings planted on clearcuts of different ages. 1. Effect of slash removal, vegetation development, and roe deer density. Forest Ecology and Management 105: 283-293.

Bianchi L., Bartoli L., Paci M., Pozzi D. 2014 - Impatto degli ungulati selvatici sui boschi cedui della Val di Bisenzio (Prato). Forest@ 11: 116-124 [Online] Avalaible: [2014].

Cederlund G., Bergqvist J., Kjellander P., Gill R.M.A., Gaillard J.M., Boisabert B., Ballon P., Duncan P. 1998 - Managing roe deer and their impact on the environment: maximising the net benefits to society. In: Andersen R., Duncan P., Linnell J.D.C. -Eds- The European Roe Deer: The Biology of Success, Scandinavian University Press, Oslo: 337-372.

Chevrier T., Saïd S., Widmer O., Hamard J. P., Saint-Andrieux C., Gaillard, J. M. 2012 - The oak browsing index correlates linearly with roe deer density: a new indicator for deer management?. European Journal of Wildlife Research 58 (1): 17-22.

Cutini A., Bongi P., Chianucci F., Pagon N., Grignolio S., Amorini E., Apollonio M. 2011 - Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus L.) browsing effects and use of chestnut and Turkey oak coppiced areas. Annals of Forest Sciences 68: 667-674.

Cutini A., Chianucci F., Chirichella R., Donaggio E., Mattioli L., Apollonio M. 2013 - Mast seeding in deciduous forests of the northern Apennines (Italy) and its influence on wild boar population dynamics. Annals of Forest Sciences 70: 493-502.

Davis M.L., Stephens P.A., Willis S.G., Bassi E., Marcon A., Donaggio E., Capitani C., Apollonio M. 2012 - Prey selection by an apex predator: the importance of sampling uncertainty. PLOS One 7 (10) : 1-10.

Di Matteo G., Tunno I., Nardi P., De Angelis P., Bertini G., Fabbio G. 2014 - C and N concentrations in different compartments of outgrown oak coppice forests under different site conditions in Central Italy. Annals of Forest Science (Early view): doi: 10.1007/s13595-014-0390-4.

Gill R.M.A. 1990 - Monitoring the status of European and North American cervids. The global environment monitoring system -GEMS- UNEP, Nairobi.

Gill R.M.A. 1992- A review of damage by mammals in north temperate forests: 1 Deer. Forestry 65: 145-169

Gill R.M.A., Beardall V. 2001 - The impact of deer on woodlands: the effects of browsing and seed dispersal on vegetation structure and composition. Forestry 74 (3): 209-218

Gill R.M.A., Morgan G. 2010 - The effects of varying deer density on natural regeneration in woodlands in lowland Britain. Forestry 83: 53–63.

ISPRA (2013) Linee guida per la gestione degli ungulati. Manuali e Linee Guida 91/2013, 221 pp.

Keigley R.B., Frisina M.R. 2011 - Process to monitor and manage ungulate browsing pressure. Natural Resources and Environmental Issues 16: article 29 [Online] Avalaible: http://digitalcommonsusuedu/nrei/vol16/iss1/29 [2014].

Kramer K., Groot Bruindering G.W.T.A., Prins H.H.T. 2006 - Spatial interactions between ungulate herbivory and forest management. Forest Ecology and Management 226: 238-247

Kuiters A.T., Slim P.A. 2002- Regeneration of mixed deciduous forest in a Dutch forest-heatland, following a reduction of ungulate densities. Biological Conservation 105: 65-74.

Li J., Heap A.D. 2008 - A Review of Spatial Interpolation Methods for Environmental Scientists. Geoscience Australia, Record 2008/23, 137 p.

Linnell J.D.C., Duncan P., Andersen R. 1998- The European roe deer: a portrait of a successful species. In: Andersen R., Duncan P., Linnell J.D.C (Eds). The European Roe Deer: The Biology of Success, Scandinavian University Press, Oslo: 1-22.

Mattioli L. 2010 - La fauna come fattore di disturbo del bosco. In: Mercurio R. “Restauro della foresta mediterranea.” Clueb Ed., 368 pp.

Mattioli L., Capitani C., Avanzinelli E., Bertelli I., Gazzola A., Apollonio M. 2004- Predation by wolves (Canis lupus) on roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in North eastern Apennine. Italy Journal of Zoology 264 (3): 249-258.

Motta R. 1996 - Impact of wild ungulates on forest regeneration and tree composition of mountain forests in the Western Italian Alps. Forest Ecology and Management 88 (1): 93-98.

Motta R. 2003 - Ungulate impact on rowan (Sorbus aucuparia L) and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L) Karst) height structure in mountain forests in the eastern Italian Alps . Forest Ecology and Management 181 (1): 139-150.

Mysterud A., Ǿstbye E. 1999 - Cover as a habitat element for temperate ungulate: effects on habitat selection and demography. Wildlife Society Bulletin 27: 385-394.

Putman R., Langbein J., Green P., Watson P. 2011 - Identifying threshold densities for wild deer in the UK above which negative impacts may occur. Mammal Review 41 (3): 175-196.

R Development Core Team 2011 - R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna (Austria).

Reimoser F., Armstrong H., Suchant R. 1999 - Measuring forest damage of ungulates: what should be considered. Forest Ecology and Management 120 (1): 47-58.

Reimoser F., Putman R.J. 2011 - Impact of large ungulates on agriculture, forestry and conservation habitats in Europe. In: Putman R.J., Apollonio M., Andersen R. (eds). “Ungulate Management in Europe: Problems and Practices.” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK: 144–191.

Rooke T., Danell K., Bergström R., Skarpe C., Hjälten J. 2004 - Defensive traits of savanna trees – the role of shoot exposure to browsers. Oikos 107: 161-171

Ward A.I., White P.C.L., Walker N.J., Critchley C.H. 2008 - Conifer leader browsing by roe deer in English upland forests: Effects of deer density and understorey vegetation. Forest Ecology and Management 256: 1333–1338.

Weisberg PJ, Bugmann H 2003 - Forest dynamics and ungulate herbivory: from leaf to landscape Forest Ecology and Management 181: 1-12.

Copyright (c)

Creative Commons License

All texts reported in and all materials directly downloadable from this page are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.