A herd of pigs searching for acorns in the forest, Source: Depositphotos

Dutch town resorts to pigs' help in fight against invasive oak

Dutch town resorts to pigs' help in fight against invasive oak

Arnhem has turned to Medieval traditions in search of a sustainable solution that could work

In the past couple of years, pig-related news, as far as European cities are concerned, have tended to be more on the negative side given the proliferation of wild boars deep into the urban spaces and the problems that come with that phenomenon.

The Dutch town of Arnhem, however, has seen an opportunity in the use of free-roaming swine as a way to keep in check the invasion of another species – the American oak (Quercus rubra). True, in this case, it won’t be wild boars but rather their domesticated cousins that will be employed in the service of the town council, though what will serve here is the ingrained preference of these animals for oak acorns.

Practical forest management

American oak made it to European soil back in the 17th century when it was brought in as a faster-growing source of wood material. Since then, it has spread all over northern Europe stifling the growth of native plant species.

Interestingly, the method proposed to control the proliferation of this tree also harks back to more ancient and simpler times.

This way of managing woods has completely disappeared,” the Arnhem council spokesman told local paper De Gelderlander, adding: “In the Middle Ages feeding pigs for free and managing woodland went hand in hand.

The pigs are helpful not only because they find the acorns to be an irresistible delicacy, but also because while searching for them the animals dig into the thick leaf foliage created by the American oaks. This frees up space for the undergrowth to get light, plus people can then deposit seed mixtures composed of native species.

The forestry control swine team will consist of nine pigs of the Bonte Benheimer breed, which will work at Groot Warnsborn grove along the A50 motorway. If their help is considered successful a year later they will be moved to other woods around Arnhem.



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