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Vegetation Dynamics as a Tool for Detecting Clandestine Graves

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Abstract:  The burial of a body can affect plant communities through mechanical disturbance and nutrient balance alteration. We performed an experimental trial using five swine carcasses buried in an open site in Italy. Vegetation dynamics was monitored recording monthly every plant individual on a regular sampling grid during 1 year on the graves, on an empty control grave, and on an undisturbed plot. Plant species composition and cover were significantly different between the disturbed and the undisturbed plots. Disturbed plots showed the increase in ruderal species and the reduction in stress‐tolerant ones. Graves and the control grave could not be distinguished from each other. Disturbance was the main factor affecting plant cover, while the presence of a buried body did not affect vegetation dynamics. However, disturbance could be easily detected; the functional approach seems promising for the identification of dynamic patterns to be used in different biogeographic and ecological contexts.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Dipartimento di Biologia, Sezione di Botanica Sistematica, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Celoria 26 I-20133 Milano, Italy. 2: LABANOF Laboratorio di Antropologia e Odontologia Forense, DMU, Sezione di Medicina Legale, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Mangiagalli 37 I-20133 Milano, Italy.

Publication date: July 1, 2012


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