Climate change is known to affect ecosystems globally, but our knowledge of its impact on large and widespread mammals, and possibly population-specific responses is still sparse. We investigated large-scale and long-term effects of climate change on local population dynamics using the wild boar (Sus scrofa L.) as a model species. Our results show that population increases across Europe are strongly associated with increasingly mild winters, yet with region-specific threshold temperatures for the onset of exponential growth. Additionally, we found that abundant availability of critical food resources, e.g. beech nuts, can outweigh the negative effects of cold winters on population growth of wild boar. Availability of beech nuts is highly variable and highest in years of beech mast which increased in frequency since 1980, according to our data. We conclude that climate change drives population growth of wild boar directly by relaxing the negative effect of cold winters on survival and reproduction, and indirectly by increasing food availability. However, region-specific responses need to be considered in order to fully understand a species" demographic response to climate change.
Animals Body Weight/physiology Climate Climate Change* Ecosystem* Europe Fagus/physiology Female Food Geography Male Population Dynamics Population Growth Seasons* Sus scrofa/physiology* Temperature