Flooding as a cause of ungulate mortality in floodplain forests in Croatia
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Floodplain forests with regular flooding regimes are the largest natural retentions areas in Croatia and are important as natural habitats for ungulates. The aim of this study was to determine the scale of mortality caused by flooding within these forests. Over a 10-year period, data on ungulate mortality (red deer, roe deer and wild boar), flood duration and flooded surface area were recorded. The study was conducted in primary (Posavske Šume—RET I) and secondary (Opeke II—RET II) retention areas within Lonjsko Polje Nature Park (Sava River region, Croatia). The longest flood period and the largest flooded surface area were recorded in RET I. Total ungulate mortality was 749 individuals, with 482 individuals in RET I and 267 individuals in RET II, predominantly wild boar. Flood mortality did not differ by gender. The highest mortality of wild boar was recorded for the juvenile and yearling age classes. Low mortality of red and roe deer can be attributed to their body size and ecological niches. Differences in mortality between the primary and secondary retention areas corresponded to differences in flood regimes, flood column heights and micro relief structures. In both retention areas, wild boar mortality and flood duration, i.e. flooded surface area, were positively correlated. Because the growth rate of the analysed ungulate populations was higher than the recorded mortality, no long-term effect of floods is expected on species abundance in these areas.
KeywordsFloods Floodplain forests Mortality Red deer Roe deer Wild boar
The authors would like to thank to the gamekeepers from Posavske Šume and Opeke II for their assistance in field work. Also, thanks to Linda Zanella for providing language editing and proofreading.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
D. U designed the study. D. U and N. Š wrote introduction and discussion, while N. KU analysed data and wrote results. M. O revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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