Researchers who allowed white-tailed deer to feed on plots of saplings while keeping other plots off-limits found that the healthiest communities, where young trees were diverse and vigorous, grew where deer foraged.

It’s a counterintuitive result, given the voracious reputation of deer — but perhaps it shouldn’t be, given the interdependent elegance of ecology.

“Seeing a positive effect was really surprising,” said Parker. It also has a potentially thorny implication: often people try to protect habitat from browsing, but that may backfire. “If we protect plants from browsing, maybe we’re eliminating the very factor that makes diversity work,” he said.

“We have a general sense of the way things work,” Parker said, “but in terms of nuance and complexity, we’re still in the infancy of ecological study.”


Though, I think it would probably be more accurate for Parker to say: we have no sense of how things work. I mean, just look middle quoted paragraph. He can’t possibly have any idea of how things work if such a “basic” belief turns out to be wrong.

-JD Cross