What Is “Natural” Vegetation? A Reconsideration of Herbivory by Wild Ungulates
Traditionally, Japanese plant ecologists treated grazing effects on vegetation lightly. When they considered the grazing effects, they regarded them as artificial because their frame of reference was the effects of livestock. Plant ecologists recognized that the oak-Sasa nipponica (a dwarf bamboo) or the birch-S. nipponica forests were plant communities characterized by simple forest structures with poor shrub layers and dense S. nipponica cover in the understories. Nobody realized that they are affected by grazing of sika deer. A long-term study (20 years) using a deer-proof fence, has shown, however, that the oak-S. nipponica forest is influenced by continuous grazing of sika deer. If deer grazing is excluded, the understory becomes densely covered by woody plants which suppress the growth of S. nipponica. It is necessary, therefore, to reconsider the effects of wild ungulates for the maintenance of several natural communities.
KeywordsWoody Plant Snow Depth Sika Deer Wild Ungulate Grazing Effect
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