14. Ecological impacts of Sika Deer on Poole Harbour saltmarshes
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Journal: Proceedings in Marine Science
This study investigates the effect of an introduced species, Sika Deer Cervus nippon on saltmarsh plant and infaunal communities. Epidermal fragment analysis was used to identify the plant species eaten by Sika Deer. Vegetation communities in deer exclosures and openly grazed areas were monitored over 4 years to investigate the effect of grazing on plant community composition and structure. The infaunal communities were assessed by extracting sediment cores. Deer were found to graze preferentially on Spartina anglica as intensive grazing led to swards dominated by Salicornia ramosissima even in upper marsh areas. Highest plant diversity was related to intermediate levels of grazing. Overall, higher levels of grazing led to higher abundance of three species of infauna detected in this study: Hydrobia ulvae, Gammarus sp. and Nereis diversicolor. Detailed examination revealed that the high abundance of H. ulvae was related to small quantities of above ground vegetation volume and that the abundance of Gammarus was related to small quantities of below ground vegetation biomass. The possible direct and indirect effects of Sika Deer grazing on bird populations are discussed. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.