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Topsoil mixing or fertilization? Forest flora changes in the vicinity of badgers’ (Meles meles L.) setts and latrines

Kurek, Przemysław
Plant and soil 2019 v.437 no.1-2 pp. 327-340
Meles meles, ammonium, badgers, burrows, flora, forests, habitat destruction, herbaceous plants, mixing, nitrates, nitrogen, pH, plant communities, soil chemical properties, soil sampling, species richness, topsoil, total nitrogen
AIMS: The badgers may affect soil chemical properties and plant species composition in two ways: by digging burrows (topsoil mixing) and by using latrines (fertilized soils). Here is reported which kind of badgers’ activity plays a major role. METHODS: Soil samples for pH, total N, NH₄⁺, NO₃⁻ and data concerning plant species composition were collected on circular plots (N = 80) on burrow mounds, latrines and reference areas. RESULTS: Burrow mounds were characterized by higher pH and lower content of total N. The content of NH₄⁺ − main component of manure, was higher in latrines than on mounds, whereas in the case of mounds, the content of NO₃⁻ was higher than in latrines. There was higher plant species richness on the burrow mounds than on the other plot types. Also plant species characterized with traits allowing them to settle on disturbed habitats were recorded at a higher number on burrow mounds. CCA analysis distinguished only one herbaceous plant aggregation associated with burrow mounds. The presence of latrines with high rate of nitrogen input did not affect plant species composition due to a low rate of soil mixing. CONCLUSIONS: Soil chemical properties and flora changes showed that badgers shape plant communities not by fertilization with excrements but, as a result of digging activity, by altering topsoil conditions.