Survival and growth of a Quercus Rubra regeneration cohort during five years following mastingThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Post-harvest regeneration of oak in the mid-Atlantic region is often limited by an insufficiency of numbers and size of advance reproduction seedlings. In Pennsylvania, this problem is sometimes (but not always) associated with a dense ground cover of ferns that appears to inhibit tree seedling growth, both before and after harvest. An unnaturally dense population of white-tailed deer is at least partly to blame for weak levels of oak advance reproduction, and the paucity of low woody vegetation occasioned by deer browsing may contribute to the abundance of fern growth in some stands. This suggests the hypothesis that, in many mature hardwood stands, deer browsing has tipped the competitive balance between ferns and understory woody plants (including tree regeneration), with the result that the scarcity and small size of woody plant regeneration is both a cause and an effect of profuse fern growth.