The impact of sika deer grazing on the vegetation and infauna of Arne saltmarsh.
Arne saltmarsh, an RSPB reserve, is situated in Poole Harbour on the English south coast. In recent years, there has been concern about possible changes in the suitability of the site for Redshank (Trigna totanus) due to sika deer (Cervus nippon) grazing. In order to assess these changes, 50 plots were established in three different locations: 20 in grazed areas, 20 in ungrazed areas and 10 fenced enclosures. Deer grazing was found to significantly affect structural and species diversity of the saltmarsh vegetation. Spartina anglica dominated in ungrazed areas whilst Salicornia ramosissima and, to a lesser extent, Puccinellia maritima dominated in grazed sites. In grazed areas the vegetation cover was significantly lower, as was vegetation height and volume. In addition, significant changes were observed in the root biomass, which was lower in grazed areas. Infaunal diversity was generally low throughout the survey area. However, significant variations were observed. Invertebrates abundance was more abundant in grazed plots than in ungrazed plots, and least abundant in fenced plots. The study indicated that in its current condition, localised areas of Arne saltmarsh do not provide adequate habitat requirements for Tringa totanus.