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Keywords:

  • agroforestry;
  • behavioral ecology;
  • disturbance ecology;
  • ecosystem functioning;
  • restoration ecology

Abstract

Ecosystem engineers are increasingly being reintroduced to restore ecological processes in restoration and rewilding projects. To predict and adaptively manage the impact of such species their behavioral ecology must be understood and quantified. Rooting behavior by wild boar qualifies them as ecosystem engineers due to their impact on vegetation disturbance regimes. The behavioral foraging ecology of wild boar was quantified in a fenced area in the Scottish Highlands in order to provide some of the understanding necessary to predict their ability to affect ecosystem restoration. Five wild boar were monitored within a 125 ha fenced area using Global Positioning System (GPS) collars and behavioral monitoring over a 12-month period. Their activity budget, the relationship between foraging behavior and vegetation communities, and how these relationships vary between seasons was investigated. The results indicate that wild boar invested approximately four more hours daily to rooting during the autumn and winter than the spring and summer. During the spring and summer, grazing was the dominant foraging behavior (approximately 28% of foraging period) while rooting dominated in autumn and winter (approximately 76% of foraging period). Deep rooting behavior is particularly associated with bracken-dominated communities. Associations between rooting, vegetation community, and season will have a strong influence on the spatial and temporal distribution of rooting behavior. This variation could have important implications for the impacts of boar on vegetation community dynamics. These results detail some of wild boar's ecosystem engineering behaviors; however, further research is required to consider the wider impacts of a full reintroduction.