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High deer populations good for ecosystem

Oct. 22, 2008 at 11:16 AM   |   Comments

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COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have discovered snakes, salamanders and other creatures thrive in areas that have high deer populations.

Conversely, Ohio State University and National Park Service scientists say they've also discovered reducing the number of deer in forests and parks might unexpectedly reduce the number of reptiles, amphibians and insects in that area.

The study was conducted as some states are selectively controlling deer populations. The findings contradict previous research that suggested deer populations can negatively impact forest ecosystems through eating plants that many smaller animals may depend on.

The new findings also suggest high deer populations might be creating a richer soil mixture through their droppings. That rich soil can benefit some plants, which in turn attracts a wider diversity of insects and invertebrates.

"By just reducing the number of deer in the forest, we're actually indirectly impacting forest ecosystems without even knowing the possible effects," said Katherine Greenwald, co-author of the study and a doctoral student at Ohio State.

The research that included former OSU Associate Professor Thomas Waite and Lisa Petit of Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park appeared recently in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

© 2008 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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