Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Biology (B.S.B.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Lissa Leege


Wetlands promote biodiversity, act as climate stabilizers, and regulate water flow, yet are vulnerable to invaders. An invasive species can affect the biodiversity, abiotic conditions, and increase vulnerability of an ecosystem over time and deer browsing can actively affect new growth by removing the apical buds of young woody vegetation. Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), a wetland specific invader, has been shown to compete against native species for limited resources and actively crowd them out. Growth of native saplings can be further complicated by the presence of white tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), which browse woody vegetation and limit recruitment of trees. Within a local riparian wetland, I answered the question as to whether invasive stiltgrass, deer browsing, or both limit the growth of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera). I experimentally evaluated this by establishing the following treatment combinations: cage (to exclude deer) and removal (of Japanese stiltgrass to reduce competition), no cage and no removal (control), cage and no removal, and no cage and removal. Sapling height, number of branches, number of nodes, number of leaves, cover classification, stiltgrass cover, and species richness were used to evaluate the effects of stiltgrass and deer browsing on sapling growth and plant community structure. I found no significant difference between treatments for any measure of growth, but stiltgrass cover was negatively correlated with species richness, suggesting that stiltgrass may negatively affect biodiversity.