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Title: Diet selection by introduced red deer in New Zealand, and its impact on native forest plant species
Author: Bee, J. N.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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New Zealand has no native mammalian herbivores, and the recent introduction of deer to the country is having a major impact on native vegetation. This thesis explores aspects of the foraging ecology of introduced deer and the responses of native plant species to browsing. In Chapter 1, I introduce the study system and the conceptual themes of the thesis, which run along two main axes. The first theme relates to the importance of traits of individuals (both plants and deer) versus landscape or community-level characteristics in determining diet selection. The second theme is concerned with two mechanisms by which native plant species can cope with ungulate herbivores: avoidance versus tolerance of damage. In Chapter 2, I use a pre-existing vegetation and browsing survey dataset to explore the capacity of 53 forest plant species to avoid damage. At a community level, plants were more heavily browsed if their neighbours were of high palatability. At the level of the individual, the strongest predictor of the palatability of species was the dichotomy between woody and non-woody plants (mostly ferns). Among woody plant species, the primary predictor of palatability was low content of phenolics. There were weaker associations between palatability and high SLA, large leaf size, and low lignin, but the significance of these weaker traits depended on the index by which palatability was defined. The considerably lower palatability of ferns compared with woody plants could not be explained by foliar traits measured in this study. Differences in palatability between fern species were small, and not related to any foliar trait. In Chapter 3, I use a pre-existing rumen contents dataset to explore major sources of variation in diet.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available