Deer Browsing and Population Viability of a Forest Understory Plant

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Science  11 Feb 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5711, pp. 920-922
DOI: 10.1126/science.1107036

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American ginseng is the premier medicinal plant harvested from the wild in the United States. In this study, seven populations of ginseng plants were censused every 3 weeks during the growing season over 5 years to monitor deer browse and harvest and to project population growth and viability. The minimum viable population size was ∼800 plants, a value greater than that of all populations currently being monitored. When simulated deer browsing rates were reduced 50% or more, population viability rose sharply. Without more effective deer population control, ginseng and many other valuable understory herbs are likely to become extinct in the coming century.

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