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New study investigates the impact of roe deer population

Roe deer population.
The UK’s increasing roe deer population could be having a detrimental impact on woodland vegetation and bird abundance, according to the results of a new study by a team from Durham University and the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Researchers presented their findings to the British Ecological Society’s recent annual meeting of data collected on vegetation cover, diversity and abundance at 35 woodland sites across England during May and June 2011 and 2012.

Each of the sites is part of the Breeding Bird Survey scheme, giving the researchers further access to bird and deer abundance data.

The study is thought to be the first in the UK to examine the possible impact of one particular species of deer on the natural environment.

The study found that sites with the highest abundance of roe deer had the lowest shrub layer vegetation cover and, similarly, a lower number of birds.

The co-author of the study, Durham University’s Georgina Palmer, stated that it is too early to say for sure if roe are causing a reduction in shrub cover and, consequently, bird abundance, or whether roe deer are more strongly associated with woodlands with open shrub layers.

The Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, Glyn Davies, who in November was branded a “gun nut” by The Daily Mirror after he commented about culling deer grazing on shrubs in his garden, last week wrote about the research, stating it shows that “deer eat saplings, debark young trees and eliminate much of the under-storey of vegetation.”

“People who understand the countryside knew that already. The result of this deer activity when numbers are not controlled is a huge reduction in biodiversity, particularly of bird life.”

“People who support the idea of greater diversity of wildlife should campaign in support of stalking.”

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