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Impacts of large herbivores on biodiversity in Irish woodlands


Miles NewmanMiles Newman

Supervisors: Dr Daniel Kelly & Professor Fraser Mitchell

Large herbivore grazing in the woodland context

Large herbivores, especially deer and feral goats, are an increasing threat to Irish semi-natural woodlands. Deer populations have soared across the island in recent decades, yet there is a serious lack of information about their numbers and ecological impacts. Along with the impacts of heavy grazing and browsing, herbivores also strip and damage bark which can lead to tree fatalities. National Parks and Nature Reserves in Ireland tend to be either over grazed or negligibly grazed, both of which have been shown to have negative effects on biodiversity.   
The overall objective of this project is to devise protocols for the appropriate management of grazing animals in Irish woodlands. Research themes to fulfil the objective include:

    • Vascular plant ground flora changes
    • Bryophyte changes in relation to vascular plants
    • Tree regeneration
    • Estimating wild herbivore numbers and impact: a review of methods
    • Cross taxon study of experimental plots

The project is utilising a set of long-term (up to 40 years old) experimental exclosure plots established in National Parks in Ireland, including Wicklow Mountains National Park, Killarney National Park, and Glenveagh National Park. These plots will be used to assess the impact of grazing vs. no grazing on the structure, composition and abundance of ground flora and tree regeneration.
This project is part of the PLANFORBIO programme which aims to increase our understanding of biodiversity in a variety of forest types in Ireland, and inform management decisions to optimise preservation of species diversity. This COFORD funded initiative will run until end 2012, covering a wide range of taxa including vegetation, mammals, invertebrates, and birds (


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Last updated 7 November 2012