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

Wirthner, S., Schutz, M., Deborah, S.Dumroese, P., Busse, M.D., Kirchner, J.W. and Risch, A.C.. 2012. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 42:585-592


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.