Aim We reviewed 54 studies reporting population densities of wild boar (Sus scrofa) in western Eurasia in order to investigate the roles of vegetation productivity [fraction of photosynthetically active radiation (FPAR) index], winter harshness (mean January temperature) and presence/absence of wolves (Canis lupus) in shaping the biogeographical variation in population density of wild boar.
Location We collected published data on the autumn–winter population density of wild boar (number of individuals km−2) in 54 locations in western Eurasia, from 1966 to 2003.
Methods The mean January temperature, obtained from the World Climate data base (http://www.worldclimate.com), was taken as a measure of winter severity. We used monthly 4 × 4 km MODIS FPAR data sets covering January 2000 to June 2004 to calculate the vegetation productivity index. In addition, we collected literature data about the presence or absence of wolves from the study areas.
Results In the geographical span of 37–60° N, the population densities of wild boar declined by three orders of magnitude, from 10 to 0.01 individuals km−2. The best multiple regression model (selected with the Akaike information criterion corrected for small samples) showed that mean January temperature and the vegetation productivity index were the most important factors explaining the biogeographical variation in population densities of wild boar. The impact of temperature was stronger than that of productivity. The presence of wolves had a weak limiting effect on population densities of wild boar at the biogeographical scale.
Main conclusion We propose that winter harshness imposes density-independent mortality on wild boar populations at higher latitudes. Competition for food in less productive regions may cause stronger density dependence in birth and death rates of wild boar populations. We expect that wild boar will respond to global warming by both an increase in local population densities and an expansion of their geographical range north and north-eastwards.