© CSIRO 2015. Context Supplemental feeding of large mammalian herbivores is a common management tool mainly aimed at promoting healthy populations and at increasing productivity and trophy sizes. Such management measure may indirectly affect herbivore effects on plant communities through altered foraging patterns. The quantification of the ecological effects of large herbivore management is important for designing holistic management and conservation programs. Aims Here we aimed at quantifying the ecological effects of supplemental feeding of Iberian red deer, Cervus elaphus hispanicus, on the composition of and on the browsing effects on Mediterranean woody plant community. Methods An experiment was set up in a hunting rangeland located in central Spain, where female deer were kept in enclosures with either exclusive access to natural forages or with additional ad libitum access to a nutritionally rich concentrate. The experiment also included a control area where deer were absent. Key results We observed significant differences in browsing impacts among the supplemented, non-supplemented and control areas, and such effect varied for the different plant species. Plant species which nutritional content complemented that of fodder were more highly consumed, for instance, Erica spp., which digestible fibre content is higher and N content lower than that of provided fodder. The presence of deer and the concentrate supplied, instead, did not influence the relative abundances of shrub species. Conclusions Artificial supplemental feeding provided to ungulates led to increased browsing on plant species which nutritional composition complemented that of the supplement provided. Implications So as to alleviate herbivory impact on all shrubs, we suggest that composition of supplemental feeding should adjust both to the natural forage availability and quality and to ungulate requirements across seasons.
- red deer
- wildlife management