Impact of roe deer Capreolus capreolus browsing on understorey vegetation in small farm woodlands

Rufus B. Sage, Kate Hollins, Catherine L. Gregory, Maureen I.A. Woodburn, John P. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The impact of around nine roe deer Capreolus capreolus/km2 on ground and shrub vegetation was assessed in a sample of six small woodlands on a largely arable estate in Dorset, southern England. In January 1996, 30 exclosures of 2 x 2 x 1.5 m and 30 paired controls were set up. Measurements of vegetation density at six height categories using a cover board were taken in late winter and mid-summer in each of the four years 1996-1999. Mean cover values were calculated for each woodland, and they indicated that the density of vegetative cover was reduced by deer browsing in winter and in summer. The effect of the browsing increased significantly within the four-year study period, and plant species composition had changed by the end of the study period. Our results suggest that roe deer may be having a substantial and potentially widespread effect on vegetative structure and composition in small farm woodlands in arable ecosystems in central southern England. The implications of this, for the characteristic wildlife and game species found in this common woodland habitat, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-120
Number of pages6
JournalWildlife Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Browsing
  • Roe deer
  • Understorey vegetation
  • Woodland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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