Conservation Science

Assessment of diet, gut microbiome, and plant detoxification in roe deer as a tool for forest management

This project will take an omics approach to assess diet composition, gut microbiota, and secretion of tannin-binding salivary proteins in woodland roe deer populations in to inform forest management strategies in Scotland

Roe Deer

The increase in distribution and numbers of wild ungulates in Europe in the last decades pose great challenges in wildlife management, with roe deer being one of the species that has more rapidly increased in range and density. In Scotland, roe deer occur throughout the mainland and on some of the islands, a!er a notable recent range expansion. Although roe deer is an important and iconic woodland species and provides revenue as game species, browsing by roe deer incurs damages to forestry and agriculture. Previous studies have indicated seasonal shifts in roe deer diet and that plant food availability can influence the level of damage in woodlands. Furthermore, an increasing number of studies are showing the importance of diet and gut microbiota to satisfy the nutritional requirements of large mammal herbivores in their seasonal environments. Insights about the diet, gut microbiome, secretion of saliva proteins aiding plant detoxification, and body condition in roe deer populations will further our understanding of adaptive strategies of this species to their environment. Robust information on summer and diet in expanding roe deer populations will help devise management strategies to decrease the impact of browsing in protected woodlands and commercial forest stands.

This project is funded by the NERC E4 DTP scheme, the British Deer Society, and Forest Research. PhD student: Chris Hirst. Supervisory team: Dr Silvia Perez-Espona (R(D)SVS, University of Edinburgh, Prof Richard Ennos (School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh), Dr Robin Gill (Forest Research), Prof Rory Putman (British Deer Society). 

Please contact Dr Sílvia Pérez-Espona for further information.

Forest Research and the British Deer Society