Publication Details

Keith, D. & Pellow, B. J. (2005). Effects of Javan rusa deer (Cervus timorensis) on native plant species in the Jibbon-Bundeena Area, Royal National Park, New South Wales. Linnean Society of New South Wales, 126 99-110.


A reconnaissance survey and exclosure experiment were carried out to examine the effects of Javan rusa deer on native flora and vegetation in Royal National Park on the southern outskirts of Sydney, Australia. Of 78 native plant species examined during the survey, only nine showed no evidence of vertebrate herbivory or physical damage and the majority of these plants were ferns and sedges. The other 69 species showed effects that included defoliation (young and/or old leaves), removal of shoots, bark-stripping, stem breakages and destruction or consumption of reproductive material. These effects varied in severity between species and from place to place, and were inferred to have been caused by deer based on the local abundance of deer droppings, footprints and the scarcity of other vertebrate herbivores in the area. The survey also revealed localised soil erosion associated with high densities of deer footprints and droppings. An unreplicated exclosure experiment showed that planted saplings of Syzygium paniculatum, a threatened rainforest tree, suffered major defoliation, bark stripping, stem breakages and some mortality when exposed to deer for several months. Many of the surviving plants showed signs of recovery when deer were subsequently excluded, although full recovery of their leaf canopies could take several seasons. The observed effects on vegetation and individual plant species are consistent with studies on several other deer species in a range of ecosystems overseas. A model of the effects of deer herbivory based on plant life-history suggests that curtailment of seed production and seedling recruitment are likely to be the major impacts of deer on plant population viability. Reductions in net growth and survival of established plants and possibly post-dispersal predation of seeds are less likely to be significant influences.