What role do deer play in the ecosystem?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In many areas of the United States, an excess of white-tail deer has caused ecological problems.  Deer are seen as a "keystone species" for forests.  This means that they can completely change an ecosystem through their behavior.

In the Eastern and Midwestern US, the excess deer populations have had bad effects on the vegetation in forests.  Deer tend to prefer certain species of plants as food and they overgraze those species.

When deer overgraze those species, they leave ecological niches open for other species of vegetation.  Often the species that take over are detrimental kinds of vegetation, including invasive exotic plant species (plants that aren't native to an ecosystem and tend to disrupt ecosystems they enter).

Follow the links for specific details about problems associated with excessive deer populations.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Deer eat all sorts of plants. Some scientists estimate that they eat over a ton of greenery a year. In light of this, they keep greens in check. Also they are eaten by wolves, tigers and lions - - not to mention some people. Hence, they are food for some animals.

What is most interesting is the rapid increase of deer in our society. A New York Times article ran a story about the explosion in deer population. One negative aspect about this is the spread of Lyme disease in many communities. Lyem is a pretty serious disease. Also with the increase in deer, there have been more car accidents.

lramian | Student

Deer play the role of a consumer in the ecosystem. Deer eat green plants. They would be considered a primary consumer because they are herbivores (animals that eat only plants). In certain forests, green plants are held in check by the deer using them for food. In the relationship of predator prey in an ecosystem, the deer become the prey for other animals, man being one of them. If the deer are taken out of an ecosystem, some green plants will over populate from the deer not there to eat them and some animal populations would decrease because they have lost a food source.

marcyhelgeson | Student

Deer play a significant role in woodland ecosystems. They are herbivores and primary consumers. There are many density dependent limiting factors that affect deer population, such as disease (Lyme Disease), overcrowding, and predation (increase in number of predators in an ecosystem). They cause many problems when they overpopulate an area. For example, they may compete with horses and cattle for food and become a nuisance for farmers.