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Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

Optimizing the census methods of wild ungulates in Slovenia and guidelines for their integration into game management

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.01.01  Biotechnical sciences  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Forest - forestry 

Code Science Field
B430  Biomedical sciences  Sylviculture, forestry, forestry technology 

Code Science Field
4.01  Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences  Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 
Keywords
free-ranging ungulates, abundance, population density, census methods, management, control method, hunting, Slovenia
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (6)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  28895  Danijel Borkovič    Technician  2016 - 2018  30 
2.  29426  PhD Dejan Firm  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2016  57 
3.  35362  PhD Katarina Flajšman  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  170 
4.  29582  PhD Ida Jelenko Turinek  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2016 - 2018  164 
5.  22515  PhD Klemen Jerina  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Principal Researcher  2016 - 2018  438 
6.  18112  PhD Boštjan Pokorny  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  850 
Organisations (4)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  0404  Slovenian Forestry Institute  Ljubljana  5051673000  11,778 
2.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  64,118 
3.  1007  Eurofins ERICo Slovenija Inštitut za ekološke raziskave d.o.o. (Slovene)  Velenje  5583055000  2,442 
4.  2872  Faculty of Environmental Protection   Velenje  2257092  3,183 
Abstract
Wild ungulates are from the ecological and economic point of view one of the most important wildlife species. There are several different aspects of their importance: (i) they have many important ecological functions in the environment, which directly and indirectly affect human welfare; (ii) as key game species, they are the main motivation for volunteer hunters and represent a significant source of income for a wider society; ungulates are also a source of a high-quality venison; (iii) however, they can also cause severe problems due to ungulate-vehicle collisions, damage in farmland and in the forest; moreover, they can be a possible vectors of zoonosis or diseases which affect domestic animals. The importance and the intensity of effects that wildlife have in the environment, largely depends on the quality of their management. Game management in Slovenia over last 30 years utilise the control method, which is based on the continuous annual monitoring of the measurable indicators on status of each game species and the conditions of the environment. After the implementation of the control method in the system of ungulate management in the 1980s in Slovenia, the estimation and determination of abundance of the majority of the game species has been neglected, which is contrary to the majority of other European countries. This was due to the misbelief, that the control method itself does not need to be supported by the information on the population abundance. However, in the practice, the established indicators of the control method even with the high-quality data analysis and interpretation do not provide reliable and sufficient information on the patterns in changing of the relative density of species in relation to the carrying capacity of the environment. The indicators are not necessarily fairly linked with the population densities and their variations, and can be influenced by density-independent factors, such as food abundance, weather conditions, time of the cull etc. Planning of the culling quotas of all ungulate species can be uncertain and may cause many concerns, when the adequate data on abundance or population densities are missing. Consequently, the quality of the management is poorer as it could be, as well as conflicts among various stakeholders or land-users may occur. For all these reasons, the game management in Slovenia has to be upgraded and enriched with the data on absolute and/or relative abundance of the most important ungulate species. At the same time, it is also important to change and improve analysis and interpretation of the existing indicators within the control method together with introduction of some new ones. In case of species with a high annual variation in fertility (e.g. wild boar and partly roe deer) it is – along with the information on abundance or population densities – also very reasonable to introduce systematic monitoring of reproductive potential on the annual level, and include those data into the annual game management plans. There is a large spectrum of different methods for monitoring of absolute/relative abundance of ungulate populations and indicators of their fertility. The methods vary in accuracy and precision of the estimates, the optimal size of the monitoring area, needed costs, working staff and other requirements, potential for the implementation in a specific habitat types (e.g. forest, open landscape), target species and also in the efficiency in different gradients (small, medium, large) of population densities of target species. Suitability of methods can also be affected by the type of the hunting system or population management in terms of the requirements for the division of planning and execution of the plans. Prior to the implementation into the every-day practice it is important to carefully decide on the selection of the most suitable methods for determination of abundance of any ungulate species, their optimization and modification to fit the diverse hab
Significance for science
In Slovenia, free-ranging ungulates are for certain aspects still relatively poorly studied animal group, despite their great abundance and wide spatial distribution. Although some studies on reproductive potential (fertility and litter size) of roe deer, red deer and wild boar females and some preliminary implication of pellet group counting method for estimating population densities of the most important ungulate species were made recently, data on population sizes/densities and expected population yield/increment are still lacking. All the previous actions, which had been focused in estimation of abundance of all game species, including ungulates, ended in the 1980s, along with the implementation of the control method or adaptive game management. For the purpose of the game management in the long-term period, the control method with the selection of suitable indicators enables to understand the patterns in changing of the relative densities of species in relation to the carrying capacity of the environment. However, application of different indicators could provide diametrically opposed information; since some data are not well-defined or enough understandable or measurable, this causes many hesitations among different stakeholders. Therefore, there is a need to evaluate and introduce the most suitable methods for estimation of abundance of the most important wild ungulate species into the game management in Slovenia. Furthermore, there is also the need for development and implication of a system for collection of data/information, which would support and help game managers in their management decisions on culling intensity, based on expected annual variability in population increment. The implementation of the project will provide new knowledge on abundance and population dynamics of wild ungulates and especially on suitability of various census methods in Slovenia and also in a broader Alpine-Dinaric and Pannonian region. New findings will be especially important for the end-users and the development of the profession as well as for the science. We expect new scientific findings in the following research areas: effects of environmental factors on population density of different wild ungulate species; effects of annual variations in environmental factors on reproductive potential of wild boar and roe deer; reliability and possibility of application of different census methods in various habitats. The scientific findings from the mentioned topics will be presented in at least three scientific papers that will be published in internationally recognized journals. We expect high international impact of these publications, i.e. high citation, as the topic is currently very important. High reliability of gaining new knowledge and scientific findings as well as development of the management strategies is supported by: (i) good and already established cooperation of the members of the project team with the two main key end-users (hunters and wildlife management planners – employees at SFS), which enables to run the project and allows the implementation of the gained knowledge into the game management practice; (ii) foreseen upgrading of on-line hunting information system that will serve for routine and rational collection of data on a level of a single individual (e.g. data on fertility and litter size); (iii) integrative and interdisciplinary approach by cooperation among researchers from four Slovene research institutions, which are leading in the field of game research. The interdisciplinary group integrates knowledge from biotechnology, natural sciences and social sciences, which provides complementary approach and synergistic refinement of the collected data. The cooperation of the research institutions, which are leading in the field of game research, is important for the domestic scientific and professional development, which in addition to the positive impact on development of the interdisciplinary research in Slovenia als
Significance for the country
Realisation of the project is important for the conservation of the natural heritage, which also includes wild ungulates; moreover, ungulates and the management of their populations also affect the rest of biocenose, either directly (e.g. ungulates as predators of plants or as a prey species for large carnivores) or indirectly (by modifying trophic cascades). For the conservation of the biodiversity (as one of the most important issues relating to conservation of the natural heritage), it is important to have professional, scientifically based management of wildlife populations, which must be based on knowledge of ecological roles of target species and their interactions with other species, including humans. Due to the upgraded and improved population management, the realisation of the project would significantly contribute to the protection of biodiversity in forest and agricultural landscape in Slovenia. Completely new and from Slovenian environment originated knowledge and data would enable to adopt suitable management decisions, including those for reducing number and extend of conflicts among various stakeholders on one hand and between man and wildlife on another. Due to mentioned outcomes the realisation of this project is of a high interest of the Republic of Slovenia (the owner of game/wildlife species), responsible authorities in game-management planning (Slovenia Forest Service) as well as population managers (hunters and hunting organisations at all levels). Support to the project was also expressed by Slovenian Hunters Association, with the decision of the Commission for the game management, dated on June 30th 2016. In a long term, improved management of wild ungulates can contribute to a more rational use of game as a renewable natural resource, which would also provide a higher financial outcome for hunting ground managers and for the state budget (through the payment of concession fee). At the same time, we can expect that the adaptive planning of annual culling quotas of ungulates (based on the information on annual variation in reproduction) would reduce the negative impacts of some species (especially wild boar and red deer) in forest and agricultural ecosystems. Extended knowledge on the abundance of the main ungulate species will significantly improve the communication between game management planners, hunting ground managers and agricultural/forest land owners. Furthermore, it will also reduce conflicts among them. Based on the foreseen outcomes, the proposed project will have in the long term positive effects on rural development and the quality of life in rural areas of Slovenia. Huge importance of the project for the state authorities is confirmed by the fact that the Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Food as responsible ministry for game species and population management selected this topic as a priority issue which would be co-financed within the CRP programme. Indeed, in the process of preparing and confirming annual hunting management plans for hunting management districts the Ministry faces the trouble since ungulate harvesting quotas are not supported by the data on their abundance (and yield), which among some stakeholders raises doubts about the relevance of such plans and game management in general. Last but not the least, the need for collection and implication of reliable data on population abundance and yield of all ungulate species is confirmed also by the conclusions accepted at the recent professional conference “Monitoring in game management: importance, possibilities and challenges” (Jablje near Mengeš, 14 May 2016), which are as follows: “The whole process of game management is based on a set of various specific data. However, within this process, there are many possibilities and needs for improving the input data and information on the populations… For this reason, it is crucial to test some simple methods for estimation of absolute and/or relative abundance of the most importan
Most important scientific results Final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Final report
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