Wisconsin’s deer overpopulation harms soil, plant growth

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MADISON — New research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests an overpopulation of deer is having a long-term impact on the state’s forests.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that biologists have known for a long time that an overabundance of deer negatively affects the number and diversity of plants in our forests. But a new study headed by Autumn Sabo, a PhD candidate at the university, suggests it’s also changing the soil beneath the forest floor.

Sabo took samples from test plots that have been fenced off from deer for up to two decades and found less soil compaction as well as a thinner layer of depleted soil, which is called a leach zone.

Sabo said she suspects the thinner leach zones are caused when deer eat hardwood tree saplings, but that more study is needed to find the exact correlation.

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