Can natural disturbance and red deer impact be distinguished in simple mountain beech?
Simple mountain beech forest predominates in much of Canterbury. South Island. New Zealand and some districts sustained high red deer numbers for over 40 years. although current deer numbers are low. Since 1972 over 800 permanent plots have been placed in these forests to assess animal damage and over 540 have been remeasured at least once. During this time forests have sustained severe insect damage. windthrow. and minor landscape damage.
On individual plots representing single stands a narrow class range may be present. but when a large number of stands are examined a simple relationship is found between plant size and density. Examination of this relationship in Puketeraki. Oxford and Mt Thomas forests is able to show short-term deer impact on replacement in two of these forests.
Deer damage can be seen as a minor disturbance factor compared with windthrow and disease damage. Even at high deer densities browse impact has placed only minor constraints on replacement in simple mountain beech forest over much of the region.