Mast seeding in deciduous forests of the northern Apennines (Italy) and its influence on wild boar population dynamics
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Pulsed food resources may strongly affect the population dynamics of several consumer species, with consequences on the ecosystem. One of the most common pulsed resources is forest mast seeding.
We analysed mast seeding in deciduous forests in a mountainous area of northern Apennines and its effect on population dynamics of wild boar (Sus scrofa L.).
We performed a quantitative, 20-year analysis on annual seed production in Turkey oak (Quercus cerris L.), beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) forest stands using litter traps. The wild boar population density was estimated by means of drive censuses and hunting bag records. The role of other biotic (density of predators) and abiotic (climate) factors potentially affecting wild boar mortality was also investigated.
Turkey oak and chestnut showed high levels of seed production, whereas lower levels were found in beech. The pulsed resources of chestnut and Turkey oak positively affected piglet density. Analyses also highlighted the influence of snow cover and wolves on wild boar population dynamics.
Wild boar can be considered a pulse rate species, the management of which can be improved by annual monitoring of seed production.
KeywordsForest seed production Pulsed resource Forest management Sus scrofa L. Silvicultural treatment Game management
We are grateful to the Province of Arezzo, Comunità Montana del Casentino, DREAm Italia and, especially, to Piero Pedone, Fabio Polvani, Alfredo Bresciani and Ivana Fantoni for logistical support and assistance. We thank Marco Mencucci (Corpo Forestale dello Stato) for providing meteo data. We also wish to thank all the technicians of the Forestry Research Centre and all the students and volunteers for their help during field data collection, with particular thanks to Tessa Giannini, Umberto Cerofolini, Luigi Mencacci, Giovanni Venturi and Claudia Becagli. The English language was reviewed and edited by George Falk. We wish to thank three anonymous reviewers, which help us to greatly improve the manuscript.
This study was funded by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forest Policy, within the framework of the national research project “The implementation of game management in rural and mountainous areas”. The study was also funded by Province of Arezzo, within the research project “Behavioural ecology of wild boar and relations with damages to agriculture and forestry (CIDAN)” and by “Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze” within the “Jacopo FICAI” fellowship “Relationship between forest and wildlife”.
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