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Do changes in soil properties after rooting by wild boars (Sus scrofa) affect understory vegetation in Swiss hardwood forests?

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Recovering from small fragmented populations, wild boars (Sus scrofa L.) have considerably increased their numbers and their habitat range in many European countries during the past two decades. Although several studies have focused on the impact of wild boar rooting on selected vegetation properties, little is known about effects on entire forest ecosystems. The main goal of our study was to assess how rooting by boars alters soil and vegetation properties. We measured soil chemical and biological properties (C and N concentrations, N availability, and microbial biomass C) as well as several vegetation characteristics (total plant cover, plant species diversity, and number and height of saplings) on paired rooted and non-rooted plots in six hardwood forests in Switzerland. We found that rooting by wild boars led to significant increases in mineral soil C and N concentrations and microbial biomass C, which could lead to improved growth conditions for plants. However, total plant cover and sapling counts were reduced on rooted plots, possibly due to mechanical disturbance or due to reduced plant available N (measured as supply rate in contrast with the observed increase in total stocks of mineral soil N). In view of these results, simple characterizations of wild boar rooting as beneficial or detrimental to forest ecosystems should be handled with care.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Zuercherstrasse 111, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland. 2: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 1221 South Main Street, Moscow, ID 83843, USA. 3: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, 3644 Avtech Parkway, Redding, CA 96002, USA.

Publication date: March 15, 2012

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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