Effect of reducing red deer Cervus elaphus density on browsing impact and growth of Scots pine Pinus sylvestris seedlings in semi-natural woodland in the Cairngorms, UK.
Fencing is the most commonly used management intervention to prevent damage to young woodland regeneration from deer. However, damage can also be prevented through reducing red deer numbers and alleviating browsing pressure. We investigated the effect of reducing red deer Cervus elaphus density on browsing impact and growth of Scots pine Pinus sylvestris seedlings at Mar Lodge Estate, Cairngorms, UK. Red deer numbers were reduced significantly between 1995 and 2016, and there was a concomitant significant reduction in deer pellet densities and browsing incidents. Positive growth of seedlings was small in the years soon after the deer reduction programme began, and was still being suppressed by browsing in 2007. However subsequently, seedling growth has increased as red deer numbers have been maintained below 3.5/km2. Red deer reduction appears to have been effective in reducing browsing impacts on Scots pine seedlings, allowing successful growth and establishment of regeneration.