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Impacts of large herbivores on woodlands – A case study on integrated deer management

Home research Impacts of large herbivores on woodlands Impacts of large herbivores on woodlands – A case study on integrated deer management


This programme is using wild deer in Britain as a case study to produce frameworks for the development of effective, collaborative and sustainable management of natural resources in Britain.

Deer management provides jobs in forestry, on sporting estates and in the meat industry, and tourists are drawn to particular landscapes, which deer help to create, to see the deer themselves. However, in some areas, high numbers of deer are causing overgrazing and damage to sensitive natural habitats, agricultural and forestry crops and suburban gardens. Deer are also increasingly involved in road traffic accidents. Therefore there are many different attitudes to deer and conflicts on how best to manage them.

The programme investigates the extent to which people that can and should influence deer management are aware of all the issues involved. It is examining how well people currently involved in deer management work together and how this can be improved so that the costs of managing deer are minimised and the benefits maximised.

Research objectives

  • Stakeholder analysis : describe wild deer management in Britain through a broad-ranging analysis of stakeholder characteristics, values and objectives.
  • Analyse decision-making : identify key decision-makers and understand the role of legislation, economics, ecology and social structures within their decisions.
  • Assess collaboration : investigate when and where collaborative deer management exists. Identify the stakeholders involved, how successful it is and how stakeholders with diverse interests and objectives might work together to manage deer. Recognise and describe key barriers to and opportunities presented by collaboration, and develop methods to overcome them.
  • Understand communication and knowledge transfer : explore where stakeholders gain knowledge about deer and their management, identifying and addressing gaps in knowledge. Identify the degree to which information is shared and how this can be improved.
  • Develop collaborative natural resource management frameworks : develop approaches to improve deer management and identify opportunities for application to other natural resources.

Related resources

Programme newsletters

Published/in press papers

Forest Research contribution

Forest Research social scientists are contributing significantly to the project as a whole, but with a specific focus upon qualitative research:

  • Interviews and literature reviews will allow an in-depth national-level stakeholder analysis. Further case-study level stakeholder analysis will be conducted through workshop, interview and narrative building.
  • Novel methods to facilitate collaborative natural resource management will be developed and tested.
  • Contribute within the interdisciplinary team to the development of natural resource management frameworks.

The Forest Research also is contributing significantly to the project as a whole, particularly through:

  • Working with the Macaulay Institute to develop a spatial model that predicts the impact of culling on red deer numbers and the distribution of red deer in the landscape. The project team will investigate to use of such models to assist discussion and collaboration between deer managers within individual Deer Management Groups.
  • Evaluation of deer impacts in woodlands within case study sites, and the effects these may have on biodiversity. This will be followed by an assessment of the public and stakeholders perception of the effects of deer on woodlands.


The programme commenced in February 2006 and reported in March 2010. Progress of the study was reported through the Project Newsletter and presentations to meetings and conferences. A list of data sets created during the project along with published outputs is available.


Social and economic research

Norman Dandy

Project interdisciplinarity and social research

Liz O’Brien

Herbivore impacts on woodland ecosystems

Robin Gill

Project team

The interdisciplinary project team consists of ecologists, economic and social scientists from seven institutions:

  • Forest Research
  • Macaulay Institute
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of York
  • Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology, University of Kent
  • University of St Andrews
  • University of Aberdeen

Funders and partners

This research is funded by the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme of the UK Research Councils. The Forestry Commission is supporting the project through its Impacts of large herbivores on woodlands programme.