Invading or recolonizing? Patterns and drivers of wild boar population expansion into Belgian agroecosystems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 222, 267–275
Native species can also exhibit invasive-like spreading patterns, and identifying mechanisms driving spread of native species is a recent but essential challenge in ecology. In Europe, wild boar Sus scrofa populations and range increased for decades. While patterns of population growth are well studied, those related to range expansion are still poorly understood. In this study, we aimed to understand patterns and mechanisms that promoted wild boar population expansion in agricultural landscapes of Southern Belgium between 1981 and 2010. Using hunting-based knowledge on colonization history and an information-theoretic approach, we evaluated support to four a priori hypotheses explaining mechanisms of wild boar colonisation in an agro-ecosystem: natural forested landscape as recolonization mechanism, and cultivated landscape, propagule pressure and climate change as invasion mechanisms. We found that wild boar population expansion in Belgian agroecosystems was a relatively slow process driven by the natural landscape, propagule pressure, and climatic changes. This suggests a combination of invasive and recolonization mechanisms was in play in the expansion of wild boar over the last three decades. Our study provides insights in the mechanisms that enable the species’ recovery in Europe since the mid-20th century, and underline the need for adapted management strategies taking into account the invasive components of wild boar population expansion.