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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Northward range expansion of rooting ungulates decreases detritivore and predatory mite abundances in boreal forests

Maaroufi, Nadia; Taylor, Astrid; Ehnes, Roswitha; Andren, Henrik; Kjellander, Petter; Björkman, Christer; Kätterer, Thomas; Klapwijk, Maartje


In the last few decades wild boar populations have expanded northwards, colonizing boreal forests. The soil disturbances caused by wild boar rooting may have an impact on soil organisms that play a key role in organic matter turnover. However, the impact of wild boar colonization on boreal forest ecosystems and soil organisms remains largely unknown. We investigated the effect of natural and simulated rooting on decomposer and predatory soil mites (total, adult and juvenile abundances; and adult–juvenile proportion). Our simulated rooting experiment aimed to disentangle the effects of (i) bioturbation due to soil mixing and (ii) removing organic material (wild boar food resources) on soil mites. Our results showed a decline in the abundance of adult soil mites in response to both natural and artificial rooting, while juvenile abundance and the relative proportion of adults and juveniles were not affected. The expansion of wild boar northwards and into new habitats has negative effects on soil decomposer abundances in boreal forests which may cascade through the soil food web ultimately affecting ecosystem processes. Our study also suggests that a combined use of natural and controlled experimental approaches is the way forward to reveal any subtle interaction between aboveground and belowground organisms and the ecosystem functions they drive.


soil fauna; grubbing; invasion; wild boar; ecosystem services; ecosystem functions

Published in

Royal Society Open Science
2022, Volume: 9, number: 7, article number: 211283