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Sabine E. Pfeffer

Sabine Pfeffer
PhD student


In many parts of Sweden ungulate communities have changed from single or two species – moose and/or roe deer – to much more diverse communities including species such as red deer, fallow deer, and wild boar. These ungulate communities inhabit landscapes that are increasingly modified by humans in ways that affect the ungulates, but also increase human-wildlife conflicts. The aim of my PhD studies is to investigate the ecosystem impacts of multispecies ungulate communities on forestry within the project “Beyond Moose”. Especially the forest industry suffers from browsing damages. Above-ground feeding causes severe economic losses due to the removal of twigs, shoots, leaves/needles, buds or flowers. Each ungulate species favours different tree species, ground floras, and growth structures and, therefore, causes different types of browsing damage affecting plant dynamics and tree growth. Effects of browsing can differ between tree species, especially evergreen and deciduous tree species respond differently. Ungulates can affect tree growth negatively via top shoot browsing, bark stripping, stem breakage, trampling, and digging. Currently, it is unknown how certain species compositions affect each other and in what way this has an influence on the degree of damage on forestry.

The aim of this PhD project is to investigate the ecosystem impacts of multispecies ungulate communities on forestry. Existent data on a national scale as well as self-collected data will be used to answer the following questions:

-          What is the main driver of browsing damage on a national scale: ungulate distribution, food availability and/or winter climate?

-          Which factors are most relevant in multispecies systems on a regional scale?

-          What are the effects of multispecies ungulate communities on tree recruitment? Are there seasonal impacts of browsing?

-           Is it possible to evaluate the existing moose browsing inventory in Sweden?


Already early during my studies it was clear that research in the field of Ecology with complex ecological processes and interactions is what interests me most of all interesting biological topics. I am very interested in ecological mechanisms between animal species but also on consequences on community structures and vegetation composition. Within my Bachelor and Master studies at Würzburg University, Germany, I mostly gathered experience within insect ecosystems such as wildbees, honeybees and insects in agroecological systems.

During my Bachelor I spent one semester abroad at Umeå University. I had a unique experience with great imparting of knowledge about arctic mechanisms.

In autumn 2015 I came back to Sweden to conduct my Master thesis at SLU Umeå where I compared two different indirect census methods to estimate ungulate population densities with each other (Pfeffer et al. 2017). One year later I started my PhD position at SLU Umeå.

Selected publications

Pfeffer, S.E., Spitzer, R., Allen, A.M., Hofmeester, T.R., Ericsson, G., Widemo, F., Singh, N.J., Cromsigt, J.P.G.M. (2017) Pictures or pellets? Comparing camera trapping and dung counts as methods for estimating population densities of ungulates. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.