Control of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) and feeding preferences in pastures grazed by wild ungulates in an area of the Northern Apennines (Italy).
The diminution of pastoral activities in marginal areas, and consequently of livestock grazing, implies a strong encroachment of invasive vegetation. The conservation of the open areas is however particularly important for wildlife management. With this aim, this paper describes the results obtained in a protected area on the Apennine mountains (Italy), encroached by Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn. Two restoration practices were carried out by the Administration of the Regional Park of the Laghi di Suviana e Brasimone (Bologna, Italy), in order to reverse the infestation of bracken and restore pastures within the park. The pasture, only grazed by wild animals, was improved through different treatments (ploughing followed by cuttings vs harrowing), each followed by seeding of a forage mixture. Our results showed better performance of the ploughing both as pastoral value of recovered pasture and as botanical composition. Some differences in the effects of the two restoration techniques were also found on the biodiversity index and on floristic richness. Data about grazing selection of the single botanical species have also been collected. The tesults also showed different behaviour in feeding preferences for wild ungulates in comparison to domestic stocks, giving a better evaluation of the real forage availability for wild herbivores.