First results on the evaluation of the ground‐cover biodiversity in an agroforestry poultry system

Carlo Cosentino, Antonella Dimotta, Mauro Musto, Mariarita Rubino, Giovanni Pecora, Simonetta Fascetti, Piereangelo Freschi


Submitted 2020-06-14 | Accepted 2020-07-25 | Available 2020-12-01

The first results on the impact of hen grazing on ground cover composition and biodiversity of two hazelnut orchards (sites A and B) in the southern Italy are presented. The selected sites were characterized by different size and environmental conditions that were, respectively for A and B: area, 4 and 5 ha; altitude, 525 and 660 m a.s.l.; annual mean temperature, +12°C and +13°C; annual precipitation: 730 and 780 mm. Besides, ground covers of the sites were different for plant species presence and distribution. In each site three 120 m2 areas were considered, each of which was provided with a mobile coop (5 hens/m2) to house during the night ten 25-week-old commercial egg-laying chickens. The trial started the first decade of May 2019. The use of hen grazing affected quantitatively and qualitatively the herbaceous stratum of the study sites, as the number of taxa composing the ground cover decreased in both sites, whereas the relative frequencies varied (increased or decreased) according to the taxon. By computing different indices of alpha diversity, we observed significant differences in species richness and diversity after hen grazing only in one site. However, the value of the qualitative Sørensen index showed a high overlap in the assemblage of ground cover before and after hen grazing in both sites. By comparing the sites, we found that, at the beginning of the trial, the ground cover of one site was richer and more diverse compared to the other site; however, the reverse situation occurred after hen grazing. Overall, our results indicate that integrating fruit trees with poultry may play a positive role in an agroforestry context, mainly in terms of control of vegetation growth.
Keywords: agroforestry; grazing; poultry; ground-cover; biodiversity

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