Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Grazing damage on agricultural grasslands caused by large wild herbivores

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 
large wild herbivores, red deer, roe deer, grazing, damage on agricultural grasslands, damage evaluation, damage compensation system, Slovenia
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (12)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  12031  PhD Samar Al Sayegh Petkovšek  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2015 - 2016  342 
2.  05658  PhD Drago Babnik  Animal production  Researcher  2014 - 2016  369 
3.  29426  PhD Dejan Firm  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2015 - 2016  57 
4.  29582  PhD Ida Jelenko Turinek  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2014 - 2016  166 
5.  22515  PhD Klemen Jerina  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Head  2014 - 2016  449 
6.  29816  PhD Miha Krofel  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2014 - 2016  749 
7.  29812  MSc Aleksandra Majić Skrbinšek  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2015 - 2016  157 
8.  18112  PhD Boštjan Pokorny  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2014 - 2016  886 
9.  31551  Matija Stergar    Researcher  2014  125 
10.  13374  Janko Verbič  Plant production  Researcher  2014 - 2016  343 
11.  17853  Barbara Zagorc  Plant production  Researcher  2014 - 2016  369 
12.  22606  PhD Tomaž Žnidaršič  Animal production  Researcher  2014 - 2016  195 
Organisations (3)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0401  Agricultural institute of Slovenia  Ljubljana  5055431  20,086 
2.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  66,527 
3.  1007  Eurofins ERICo Slovenija Inštitut za ekološke raziskave d.o.o. (Slovene)  Velenje  5583055000  2,451 
Abundance and distribution range of most of wild ungulates in Slovenia notably increased in recent years. Simultaneously to this increase also their positive and negative effects on environment increased, including damages to agriculture. Among damages, most problematic used to be those caused on crops and grasslands (rooting) by wild boar. In recent years, farmers increasingly complain also against grazing of agricultural grasslands by wild ungulates, especially red deer. According to their belief, this grazing causes important economic loss for farms. On the other hand, hunting managers that are also responsible for compensating damages caused by wild ungulates claim that this problem is insignificant and that complains are given only by small group of farmers, who loudly express their concerns. Hunting managers also suggest that there are attempts of frauds, when grazing of grasslands by livestock are attributed to wild ungulates. Their view is that grazing of grasslands by wildlife is a natural phenomenon that cannot be prevented and therefore there is a need to tolerate this type of damages to certain extent, although current legislation does not foresee this. According to current legislation, hunting managers are responsible for compensation of all damages caused by game animals in hunting grounds, thus also for damages caused by grazing on grasslands. However, no methodology is prescribed to assess these damages, neither is there established uniform practice, how to deal with it. Consequently, solution to these damage claims depends to skilfulness of individual damage inspectors, who are often exposed to various pressures. Lack of order in this field is leading to increasing conflicts among farmers and hunting managers and is building pressure for the ministry in charged for these issues to provide solutions. Currently there is no objective estimate about the extent of grassland grazing by individual game species or of its economic effects for the farmers and other consequences on environment. This lack of knowledge further prevents possibilities for effective solutions to these issues. In order to achieve long-term, effective and rational solution to the problems of agriculture grassland grazing by wild ungulates in Slovenia we recommend a study, in which we will: 1) determine spatial distribution of this problem in the country and determine damage hot-spots, 2) realistically estimate loss in quantity and quality of produced livestock feed due to wild ungulate grazing, 3) estimate economic consequences for owners, 4) provide a recommendation for acceptable level of grazing, based on economics of damages, ecological and other values of wild ungulates, opinions of farmers and general public, and legislative limitations (or in accordance with the ministry, suggest improvements to current legislation), 5) recommend a rational, simple, and fair system of assessing amount of lost vegetation and suitable values of compensations paid for damages, 6) prepare methodology for financial evaluation of damages caused by grazing, and 7) prepare recommendation for best measures to prevent grazing by wild ungulates. We will use several complementary approaches to achieve these goals: 1) to determine the extent of damages on national level and damage hot-spots we will use fine-scale (1x1 km) high-quality data on local roe and red deer densities in Slovenia, maps of cultivated grasslands in the country, GPS telemetry data of red deer monitored throughout Slovenia ()100,000 locations and 1,500,000 activity data from )70 animals), published data on season-specific use of grasses in roe and red deer diet in Slovenia, GIS databases of other parameters affecting microhabitat use of wild ungulates including use of grasslands. Using spatially-explicit modelling, GIS tools and habitat modelling we will prepare and validate a high-resolution (100x100 m) map for both target species that will represent the maximum possible removal of grasses (kg/ha
Significance for science
Even though the project is highly applicable in nature, in many perspectives contributes to the advances of science. In order to assess the rate of wild-ungulate grazing for the entire area of the country, we foremost developed and validated an innovative approach that optimally uses the existing rich set of data on the density, habitat selection and diet of ungulates and requires relatively little fieldwork (and is therefore cheap). Although the assessment of grazing rates is not a very common research methodology in the world, it has in our opinion a high potential to be applied to study also other ecologically and economically significant effects of large herbivores in the environment: influences on the regeneration of the forest, bark peeling of trees, nutrient transport, zoochory, indirect effects on other species, etc. Thus, in our opinion results of this study will be interesting to a broader scientific community worldwide, moreover due to fact that this ecologically relevant topic of the importance of wild ungulates is currently in the highlight of scientific research. Our results are important also from the perspective of improving the baseline knowledge, since we produced extensive dataset with our results obtained from an extensive field sampling of wild-ungulate grazing using a classical approach to measure production with cages and on pairs of plots exposed to grazing. Results on rates of wild-ungulate grazing have in the past been already published in several scientific papers, but almost exclusively always using lower number of study plots or on a geographically more homogenous area than ours. Comparatively with previous studies, our study is advantageous and has an added value because we included numerous variable factors that can potentially affect the grazing rate; e.g. red deer density, forest cover, distance to the nearest forest edge, which improved the accuracy of predictions and rounded the knowledge on this topic as such. This is why results of this project should be interesting also to the public on the national and international level. Similarly, interesting will also be the results of the analysis of effects of red deer grazing on the quality of grassland production, since this study has used a higher number and variability of sampling plots compared to previous studies. Wild ungulates and its management plans can cause hot emotional responses of various interest groups. Especially influential in this regards are the damages caused by wild ungulates. Moreover, in most European countries, as well as in Slovenia, the economy of agricultural sector is highly dependent on the system of subsidies and other tax-payer’s contributions. Because of this, very frequently results of public opinion studies have been in recent times included in management plans for wild-ungulates and other protected animal species (especially large carnivores) and in studies of effects on land cover and humans. A similar study was conducted also in this project on a representative sample. This is to our knowledge the first such study in the world, which specifically dealt with the topic of damages of overgrazing on grasslands thus its results bring locally and internationally interesting perspective.
Significance for the country
When including all current operative and development questions related with management of wild-ungulates, especially in agriculture, the direct effects of this project (which consistently followed the topic of the call) for Slovenia, probably may not be the most significant of all. However, the project is directly very important, especially in the light of its power to contribute to more generalised and thoughtful solutions of this currently highly significant conflict situations occurring between hunting and agricultural sector and will contribute to lowering the constant pressures towards the both Ministy (MKGP) covering both sectors. Even bigger are the potential indirect effects of this project. According to the national legislation, which is particularly demanding in the part of compensations toward hunters, hunting ground managers are responsible for all damages caused by game on the hunting ground areas. However, in practice, most of the damages are compensated for from agricultural lands and much more rarely from forests or grazed grasslands. This situation is similar in other European countries. The system, in which the compensation would be payed consistently for all possible “damages” caused by game, would not be economically feasible and would soon result in species extermination. For the compensation system of damages on grazing grasslands, before our project in Slovenia we still did not have an established methodology that would be used for assessing damages and this was one of the main outputs of this project and its results will likely positively contribute to the politics of damage compensation system in forest and other damages caused by wild ungulates. Our proposed solutions holistically include all relevant economical, ecological and sociological factors and backgrounds, and direct towards compromises among different stakeholders. In contrary to this, a different more one-sided and simpler approach might have strong negative repercussions for different segments of agricultural or hunting sectors with important economical and development consequences. The design of this project was done in a way to ensure a direct applicability of the results. Compensation for overgrazing will be directly economically feasible only for a small group of land owners that are most negatively affected, but did not receive the adequate compensation for this damages thus far. However, since the damages are occurring in areas with highest red deer densities, this system arranged via compensation system with compensations for damages (together with a system of other measures for lowering the problematics of overgrazing) will also motivate managers and planners from this regions to better reconcile the density of ungulates with the capacity of the environment, which should have a positive effect on lowering the economic damages from wild ungulates in forests and on agricultural land and moreover improve the management of game species as an important renewable natural resources in Slovenia.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2015, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2015, final report
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