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Soil properties in relation to diversionary feeding stations for ungulates on a Mediterranean mountain

Pascual-Rico, Roberto, Morugán-Coronado, Alicia, Botella, Francisco, García-Orenes, Fuensanta, Sánchez-Zapata, José Antonio
Applied soil ecology 2018 v.127 pp. 136-143
Ammotragus lervia, anthropogenic activities, biodiversity, cameras, crop damage, ecosystems, electrical conductivity, fauna, global change, human-wildlife relations, microbial activity, microbial communities, mountain soils, nontarget organisms, nutrient content, regional parks, soil physical properties, soil sampling, ungulates, Spain
Soil plays an important role in processes that maintain ecosystems function and support biodiversity. Physicochemical and biological soil properties can be altered by human activities, and through management tools that affect environment conditions. Diversionary feeding is a widely employed management tool to avoid human-wildlife conflicts. This practice could lead to concentrations of fauna in specific areas where food is deposited, which could affect physicochemical, biochemical and biological soil properties. We evaluated the effect of diversionary feeding on semiarid Mediterranean mountain soil in the Sierra Espuña Regional Park (SE Spain). The objective of diversionary feeding in this Regional Park is to mitigate crop damage caused by the aoudad (Ammotragus lervia), an exotic ungulate introduced for hunting interests in the 1970s. Three diversionary feeding stations were monitored with automatic cameras to verify their use by target and non-target species. We collected soil samples from the monitored feeding stations and compared soil characteristics from three areas: feeding stations soil, contour area soil (surrounding the feeding stations) and a reference soil (not influenced by feeding stations). Our results suggested no effects on soil physical properties. However, we found that diversionary feeding altered electrical conductivity, nutrient concentration, microbial activity and microbial communities at FS, but effects were weaker in the contour area. These alterations of soil dynamics contribute to change soil functionality and to reinforce global change. Not pouring food directly on soil is recommended to reduce these effects.