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      Introduction to the Special Issue: Ungulates and invasive species: quantifying impacts and understanding interactions

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          Abstract

          High densities of white-tailed deer negatively impact ecosystems in parts of North America, many of which are also impacted by invasive plants. Whether plant invasions are a result of high deer population, and how deer and invasives interact in their impacts, are not well understood. This motivated a colloquium at the 2016 Botanical Society of America meeting. Nine of those presentations were expanded for this special issue of AoB PLANTS, “Interactions between white-tailed deer and invasive plants in North American forests.” This Introduction to this issue highlights the context of the problems and summarizes and synthesizes insights from these papers.

          Abstract

          White-tailed deer are emblematic ungulates that, due to anthropogenic modification of landscapes, currently occur at elevated densities. Elevated deer densities often co-occur with non-native plants, but it is not known if plant invasions are a consequence of deer impacts or occur independent of deer impacts on ecosystems, or whether these two stressors are synergistic. A colloquium on ‘Interactions of white-tailed deer and invasive plants in forests of eastern North America’ explored these topics at the 2016 annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America. Nine of those presentations are published in this special issue of AoB PLANTS.

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          Most cited references 54

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          Pleistocene rewilding: an optimistic agenda for twenty-first century conservation.

          Large vertebrates are strong interactors in food webs, yet they were lost from most ecosystems after the dispersal of modern humans from Africa and Eurasia. We call for restoration of missing ecological functions and evolutionary potential of lost North American megafauna using extant conspecifics and related taxa. We refer to this restoration as Pleistocene rewilding; it is conceived as carefully managed ecosystem manipulations whereby costs and benefits are objectively addressed on a case-by-case and locality-by-locality basis. Pleistocene rewilding would deliberately promote large, long-lived species over pest and weed assemblages, facilitate the persistence and ecological effectiveness of megafauna on a global scale, and broaden the underlying premise of conservation from managing extinction to encompass restoring ecological and evolutionary processes. Pleistocene rewilding can begin immediately with species such as Bolson tortoises and feral horses and continue through the coming decades with elephants and Holarctic lions. Our exemplar taxa would contribute biological, economic, and cultural benefits to North America. Owners of large tracts of private land in the central and western United States could be the first to implement this restoration. Risks of Pleistocene rewilding include the possibility of altered disease ecology and associated human health implications, as well as unexpected ecological and sociopolitical consequences of reintroductions. Establishment of programs to monitor suites of species interactions and their consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem health will be a significant challenge. Secure fencing would be a major economic cost, and social challenges will include acceptance of predation as an overriding natural process and the incorporation of pre-Columbian ecological frameworks into conservation strategies.
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            Deer Facilitate Invasive Plant Success in a Pennsylvania Forest Understory

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              In a long-term experimental demography study, excluding ungulates reversed invader's explosive population growth rate and restored natives.

              A major goal in ecology is to understand mechanisms that increase invasion success of exotic species. A recent hypothesis implicates altered species interactions resulting from ungulate herbivore overabundance as a key cause of exotic plant domination. To test this hypothesis, we maintained an experimental demography deer exclusion study for 6 y in a forest where the native ungulate Odocoileus virginianus (white-tailed deer) is overabundant and Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) is aggressively invading. Because population growth is multiplicative across time, we introduce metrics that correctly integrate experimental effects across treatment years, the cumulative population growth rate, λc, and its geometric mean, λper-year, the time-averaged annual population growth rate. We determined λc and λper-year of the invader and of a common native, Trillium erectum. Our results conclusively demonstrate that deer are required for the success of Alliaria; its projected population trajectory shifted from explosive growth in the presence of deer (λper-year = 1.33) to decline toward extinction where deer are excluded (λper-year = 0.88). In contrast, Trillium's λper-year was suppressed in the presence of deer relative to deer exclusion (λper-year = 1.04 vs. 1.20, respectively). Retrospective sensitivity analyses revealed that the largest negative effect of deer exclusion on Alliaria came from rosette transitions, whereas the largest positive effect on Trillium came from reproductive transitions. Deer exclusion lowered Alliaria density while increasing Trillium density. Our results provide definitive experimental support that interactions with overabundant ungulates enhance demographic success of invaders and depress natives' success, with broad implications for biodiversity and ecosystem function worldwide.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                AoB Plants
                AoB Plants
                aobpla
                AoB Plants
                Oxford University Press (US )
                2041-2851
                November 2017
                09 November 2017
                09 November 2017
                : 9
                : 6
                Affiliations
                Department of Natural Resources, Fernow Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
                Department of Biology, Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA
                Author notes
                Corresponding author’s email address: GorchoDL@ 123456miamioh.edu
                Article
                plx063
                10.1093/aobpla/plx063
                5739040
                © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Pages: 6
                Product
                Categories
                Short Communication

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