Badger Meles meles as Ecosystem Engineer and Its Legal Status in Europe

Kurek P., Piechnik Ł., Wiatrowska B., Ważna A., Nowakowski K., Pardavila X., Cichocki J., Seget B. (2022). Badger Meles meles as Ecosystem Engineer and Its Legal Status in Europe. Animals. 12(7):898.

The European badger plays an important role as a natural factor shaping species diversity in forests. Its extensive setts can be used by many other animals as shelters. Soil perturbations in their setts support plant communities that differ from the matrix landscape. The badger is also an effective seed disperser. We investigated its role as an ecosystem engineer in preserving species diversity and discussed its legal status across Europe. In most European countries (69.3% of the continent), the badger is hunted, sometimes year-round. The hunting season lasting through winter until early spring may have a negative effect on badger populations, especially when cubs are born in February. Although this species is Red Listed in 19 European countries (with categories ranging from LC to EN), the badger is strictly protected by law in 30.7% of its European range. A reduction in badger populations may limit its ecosystem services (seed dispersal, topsoil disturbances, microhabitat creation). Much new data on the importance of badgers in ecosystem engineering has allowed us to reconsider how we manage badger populations.

Keywords: European badger; Mustelidae; ecosystem engineer; habitat creation; ecosystem services; seed dispersal; hunting season; species diversity