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Environmental factors shaping ungulate abundances in Poland

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Population densities of large herbivores are determined by the diverse effects of density-dependent and independent environmental factors. In this study, we used the official 1998–2003 inventory data on ungulate numbers from 462 forest districts and 23 national parks across Poland to determine the roles of various environmental factors in shaping country-wide spatial patterns of ungulate abundances. Spatially explicit generalized additive mixed models showed that different sets of environmental variables explained 39 to 50 % of the variation in red deer Cervus elaphus, wild boar Sus scrofa, and roe deer Capreolus capreolus abundances. For all of the studied species, low forest cover and the mean January temperature were the most important factors limiting their numbers. Woodland cover above 40–50 % held the highest densities for these species. Wild boar and roe deer were more numerous in deciduous or mixed woodlands within a matrix of arable land. Furthermore, we found significant positive effects of marshes and water bodies on wild boar abundances. A juxtaposition of obtained results with ongoing environmental changes (global warming, increase in forest cover) may indicate future growth in ungulate distributions and numbers.
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