The grazing habits of free-range horses in Poland help increase the biodiversity in the ground and shrub layers of old forests, researchers have found.
Drs. Sergii Boiko, Ernest Bielinis, Zbigniew Sierota, Alicja Słupska, Maciej Nasiadko, Anna Zawadzka and Jakub Borkowski studied two forests that encompassed both coniferous and deciduous trees. One forest stand had free-roaming Konik horses, a primitive Polish breed, and the other did not. Both forests had roe and red deer in them.
The researchers compared the ground cover and understory shrub layers of each forest to determine the impact forest animals had on it. The scientists discovered that the Polish horses substantially changed the species composition and increased diversity.
Though the horses spend a lot of time in meadows, they use the trees for protection from weather and insects, as well as for a place to eat. The roaming horses help preserve the meadows from encroaching forests and help keep undergrowth diverse by spreading seeds of plants in their manure. The scientists concluded that the Polish primitive horses had a positive impact on the forests used in the study.
Read more at HorseTalk.
Read the study here.
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