Ungulate browsing causes species loss in deciduous forests independent of community dynamics and silvicultural management in Central and Southeastern Europe


  • E.D. Schulze Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, PO Box 100164, 07701 Jena, Germany
  • O. Bouriaud Forest Research and Management Institute, Bucharest 128 Bd. Eroilor, Voluntari, Romania
  • J. Wäldchen Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, PO Box 100164, 07701 Jena, Germany
  • N. Eisenhauer Institute for Ecology, University of Jena, 07701 Jena, Germany; German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany; Institute for Biology, University of Leipzig, Johannisallee 21, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
  • H. Walentowski Bavarian State Inst. of Forestry, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 1, 85354 Freising, Germany
  • C. Seele Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, PO Box 100164, 07701 Jena, Germany
  • E. Heinze Förstereistrasse 34, 01099 Dresden, Germany
  • U. Pruschitzki Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, PO Box 100164, 07701 Jena, Germany
  • G. Dănilă University Ştefan del Mare of Suceava, 13 University Street, 720229 Suceava, Romania
  • G. Marin Forest Research and Management Institute, Bucharest 128 Bd. Eroilor, Voluntari, Romania
  • D. Hessenmöller Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, PO Box 100164, 07701 Jena, Germany
  • L. Bouriaud University Ştefan del Mare of Suceava, 13 University Street, 720229 Suceava, Romania
  • M. Teodosiu Forest Research and Management Institute, Bucharest 128 Bd. Eroilor, Voluntari, Romania




selectively cut forest, age-class forest, protected unmanaged forest, roe deer, tree species diversity, forest regeneration, community dynamics, deciduous forest


Grid-based inventories of 1,924 deciduous forests plots in Germany and 4,775 in Romania were used to investigate tree species composition as affected by browsing and grazing under different forest management (rotation forestry, selectively cut forest, protected forest). At regional scale, the loss of tree species in the dominant layer was between 52 to 67% in Germany and of 10 to 30% in Romania, with largest effects in protected nature reserves in Germany. At plot level, only 50% (Germany) to 54% (Romania) of canopy species were found in the regeneration layer with a height of 1.5 m. Browsing was influenced by the proportion of Fagus in the regenerating trees in Germany, and by stand density, basal area, and management in both regions. Structural equation modeling explained 11 to 26% of the variance in species loss based on the fresh loss of the terminal bud in the winter prior to the inventory work (one season browsing). Browsing (and grazing in Romania) is shown to be a significant cause of species loss across both countries and all management types. Potential cascading effects on other organisms of deciduous forest ecosystems are discussed. We conclude that the present hunting practices that support overabundant ungulate populations constitute a major threat to the biodiversity of deciduous forests in Germany and Romania and to other places with similar ungulate management, and that changes my only be possible by modernizing the legal framework of hunting.


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