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The use of forests by deer in Ireland (FORDEER)

Partners: University College Cork & Waterford Institute of Technology
Funding Body: Department of Agricutlure, Food & the Marine
Duration: March 2013 - February 2015


In light of expanding populations of deer in Ireland, this project will provide a landscape level study of deer populations and behaviour within a mosaic of forest and agricultural habitats in Ireland. The aim of the study is to quantify deer population, habitat and silvicultural elements that influence local deer population densities and behavioural patterns that may lead to a higher risk of tree damage.Genetic fingerprinting of deer faecal pellets will be used to estimate accurately deer densities. We will quantify multiple habitat variables using advanced GIS mapping tools. Habitat suitability models will be constructed to relate deer densities and deer impacts to landscape configuration, habitat structure and forest type. These data can be used to predict areas of likely deer damage and to inform the development of improved silvicultural practice to minimise threats posed by deer.

Extensive data on forest composition and structure, together with data on associated non-forest habitats already available from the BIOFOREST and PLANFORBIO projects will underpin more detailed studies of deer impact, carrying capacity and habitat suitability for deer. Additional sites from Northern Ireland will facilitate an all-island approach that will aid in the predictive management of deer populations using the Deer Management Planning process. Selected sites will be used to evaluate the socio-economic cost/benefit of deer management.

Project Objectives

  • An all-island approach to deer management.
  • Using GIS mapping and analyis tools identify factors that predict deer settlement and density at a variety of scales within a landscape.
  • Develop novel tools using genetic fingerprinting of deer faecal pellets to provide a method to determine deer population densities.
  • Quantify relationships between deer species/age/sex and forest type.
  • Quantify deer damage to plantation trees in different forest types and by different deer species.
  • Quantify deer damage to forest biodiversity.
  • Assess the socio-economic and costs/benefits of deer management.
  • Develop a predictive model of the interaction between deer and forestry to aid in the Deer Management Planning process


University College Cork:

Waterford Institute of Technology:

  • Principal Investigator: Catherine O'Reilly
  • PhD Student WIT: Ciara Powell

Forest Ecology

Dept. of Zoology, Ecology & Plant Science, University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork