Special Issue: Human-environment interactions and Ecosystems

Spatiotemporal patterns of human and wild boar conflicts in rural China and its implications for social-ecological systems coevolution

  • WANG Yahui , 1, 2 ,
  • YANG Aoxi 1, 2 ,
  • YANG Qingyuan 1, 2 ,
  • KONG Xiangbin 3, 4 ,
  • FAN Hui , 5, *
  • 1. School of Geographical Sciences, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China
  • 2. New Liberal Arts Laboratory for Sustainable Development in Rural Western China, Chongqing 400715, China
  • 3. College of Land Sciences and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
  • 4. Key Laboratory of Agricultural Land Quality and Monitoring, Ministry of Natural Resources, Beijing 100193, China
  • 5. Institute of International Rivers and Eco-security, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China
* Fan Hui (1972-), PhD and Professor, E-mail:

Wang Yahui (1989-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in land use change. E-mail:

Received date: 2023-05-29

  Accepted date: 2023-06-30

  Online published: 2023-08-29

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China(42271263)

National Natural Science Foundation of China(41901232)

National Natural Science Foundation of China(42071234)

National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971239)

Major Project of National Social Science Foundation of China(19ZDA096)

Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(SWU-KT22008)

Innovation Research 2035 Pilot Plan of Southwest University(SWUPilotPlan031)


In the context of social and economic transformation in rural China, ecosystem disservices have emerged frequently. This study reveals the spatiotemporal patterns, hazards and driving factors of wild boar damage from 2000 to 2021 by using the meta-analysis and collecting 733 typical human and wild boar conflicts. In this period, the number, spatial scope and hazard degree of wild boar damage incidents showed an increasing trend, and the number of provincial-level regions, prefecture-level cities and districts (counties) involved increased from 18, 41 and 67 to 25, 147 and 399, respectively. Wild boar damage incidents were concentrated in Chongqing municipality and central and western Hubei province before 2005, and then expanded to the Sichuan Basin, Loess Plateau, middle-lower reaches of Yangtze River and mountainous areas such as Changbai Mountains after 2015. The main manifestations were destroying crops, infringing poultry and causing casualties, especially the destruction of crops and farmland abandonment, accompanied by a rapid increase in casualties, accounting for 23.66% of the damage incidents. Meanwhile, the spreading trend and harmfulness of wild boar damage is a typical phenomenon of ecosystem disservices. The aggravation of this phenomenon is the result of ecological restoration, hunting ban policy, unclear boundary between agricultural land and ecological land, strong viability of wild boar and lack of natural enemies. This has posed an obvious threat to the use of abandoned farmland, the improvement of farmers’ livelihood and the maintenance of regional ecological security. It is urgent to formulate a policy of controlling the number of wild boars and establish a compensation mechanism for the loss by wild boars.

Cite this article

WANG Yahui , YANG Aoxi , YANG Qingyuan , KONG Xiangbin , FAN Hui . Spatiotemporal patterns of human and wild boar conflicts in rural China and its implications for social-ecological systems coevolution[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2023 , 33(8) : 1614 -1630 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-023-2145-3

1 Introduction

Wildlife constitutes a vital constituent of the biosphere. However, within the context of global change, events such as predation on livestock, property damage, and attacks on humans by wild animals such as Asian elephants, African lions, brown bears and wild boars are common worldwide (Wilder et al., 2017; Bautista et al., 2019; Gross et al., 2020). These events reflect the conflict from the superposition of ecological space and human activity space within the biosphere. This can be particularly harmful in certain areas, where it can disrupt the stability of regional ecosystems and greatly reduce people’s willingness to protect wildlife (Goswami et al., 2015; Frank, 2016; Fletcher et al., 2021; O’Bryan et al., 2022). Achieving a harmonious coexistence between humans and nature, therefore, poses a considerable challenge in balancing wildlife conservation with human safety and property preservation (Frank, 2016). A notable illustration of this challenge lies in the global phenomenon of conflicts between humans and wild boars, colloquially referred to as human-boar conflicts or wild boar damage, which has garnered significant media coverage across the Americas (Snow et al., 2017), Europe (Castillo-Contreras et al., 2021), and Asia (Hua et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2018), with some regions experiencing rampant occurrences.
China has witnessed a rapid escalation in human and wild boar conflicts (human-wild boar conflicts) in recent years (Hua et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2018; Yang et al., 2019; Miao et al., 2022). By the end of 2021, most provincial-level regions (hereafter province) had had records of wild boar damage. For example, in 2010, Shuangchuan town in Jinyun county of Zhejiang province, suffered approximately 113 ha of farmland damage out of a total of 200 ha, with nearly 67 ha experiencing complete crop failure. Similarly, in Chun’an county, abandoned paddy fields and drylands were affected, covering an area of 180 ha. In 2017, wild boar-induced crop damage was reported in 75% of the administrative villages in Jingyuan county, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, impacting over 30% of the total cultivated area and resulting in an economic loss of nearly 60 million yuan. Furthermore, a poor household in Tongcheng county, Hubei province, incurred a loss of over 50,000 yuan when 80 sheep were killed by wild boars overnight at the end of 2020. Notably, between 2016 and 2020, the wildlife protection station in Longnan city, Gansu province, recorded 17 incidents of wild boars causing injuries or fatalities to humans, resulting in a total of 19 casualties (7 injured and 12 deceased). Investigating the spatiotemporal distribution patterns, extent of damage, and the driving factors of such conflicts holds great value in formulating relevant control policies.
Wild boar induced crop damage represents the predominant manifestation of human-wild boar conflicts (Schley et al., 2008; Hua et al., 2016), frequently accompanied by assaults on poultry (Haruka et al., 2013), humans (Haruka et al., 2013), and the spread of diseases such as pseudorabies, swine flu, and leptospirosis (Geisser et al., 2004; Deng et al., 2009). Human-wild boar conflicts are influenced by various factors, such as changes in population (Richard et al., 2004; Jiang et al., 2018; Huang et al., 2021b), land use change (Nyhus et al., 2004), ecological conservation policies, and the survival ability of wild boars themselves (Cai et al., 2008). Nonetheless, the factors instigating human-wild boar conflicts are contingent upon regional disparities. For example, in areas suitable for cultivation, human overexploitation of forest land has squeezed the living space of wild boars, leading to intensified conflicts. In mountainous areas, the improvement of the ecological environment has provided wild boars with a broad space for activity, resulting in frequent incidents caused by wild boars (Wang et al., 2019; Wang et al., 2020). In order to reduce losses caused by wild boars to humans, measures such as setting up buffer devices (Hua et al., 2016), using “ound-light” interference technology, and compensating for property losses have been taken (Hua et al., 2016; Catherine et al., 2012), but the effect is unsatisfactory. Hunting is an effective way to control the number of wild boars and reduce their frequency of damage incidents, but there is a lack of scientific basis for determining the time, quantity, and scope of hunting. Currently, some organizations use methods such as field research and infrared camera monitoring to observe the population size of wild boars in local areas such as protected areas and counties, but there are obvious limitations in time and space, and the time span is short (2-3 years), resulting in a slow response to the national formulation and adjustment of wild boar conservation policies (Hua et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2018; Yang et al., 2020).
Given this, this paper reveals the spatial and temporal scales, types, degree of harm, and driving factors of human-wild boar conflicts in China from 2000 to 2021 employing the meta-analysis methods based on data from typical wild boar damage surveys. It also explores control strategies and provides empirical evidence for deepening scientific understanding of human-wildlife conflicts and mitigating the harm caused by wild boar damage incidents.

2 Data and methods

2.1 Data

2.1.1 Incidents of human and wild boar conflicts

We searched for relevant literature and reports using the keywords “wild boar, wild pig, Sus scrofa, wild boar accidents, wild boar epidemic, wild boar fatalities, and human-wildlife conflicts” spanning the period from 2000 to 2021. The search yielded a total of 1242 records, from which 509 duplicates or entries lacking crucial information were excluded, resulting in a corpus of 733 relevant literature and reports (Table 1). Detailed data encompassing time, location, process, damage level, and compensation measures associated with wild boar-induced harm were extracted from each publication and report. Subsequently, a comprehensive database encompassing human-wild boar conflict incidents in China from 2000 to 2021 was constructed, incorporating information obtained from 25 provinces, 147 prefecture-level cities (hereafter cities), and 399 districts or counties.
Table 1 Statistics of literature and report about human-wild boar conflicts from 2000 to 2021
Form Source Quantity (Article) Percentage
Academic papers China Knowledge Network, Web of Science, Elsevier, Springer, etc. 88 12.01
National Forestry and Grassland Administration, Local Government Portal 8 1.09
Leadership message People’s Network Leader Message Board 11 1.50
News page Xinhua, Phoenix, Southwind and other networks or magazines 626 85.40
Total 733 100

2.1.2 Typical cases of human and wild boar conflicts

The data used in this study were obtained from a household survey conducted in Youyang Tujia and Miao autonomous county (referred to as Youyang county), Chongqing municipality in October 2020. Located in the hinterland of the Wuling Mountains, Youyang county is a typical area where human production and ecological space overlap, with a combination of the valley, plain, hills, and mountainous areas at elevations ranging from 229 to 1888 m. It is also a poverty-stricken county and a region where wild boar damage incidents have occurred frequently in recent years in China. The field survey used a combination of stratified sampling and random sampling to conduct household questionnaires. The specific process was as follows: first, two towns, Maoba and Muye, were selected based on the differences in wild boar damage, agricultural development, and land management in each town. Second, two typical villages were selected from each town based on the severity of wild boar damage, namely Tiancang Village and Shuanglong Village in Maoba and Lier Village and Dabanying Village in Muye. Finally, 50-80 households were randomly selected for investigation from each village. The survey process used a participatory rural appraisal method, with the head of the household as the main respondent and other family members assisting in answering the questionnaire. The questionnaire content included land management, land transfer and abandonment, labor migration, household income and expenditure, wild boar damage (including location, frequency, extent of losses, compensation, and surrounding environment information). In this paper, we analyzed the relationship between wild boar damage and land abandonment using the field survey in Tiancang Village and Shuanglong Village in Maoba as an example (Figure 1). A total of 70 and 58 valid questionnaires were obtained from the two villages, respectively, covering a total area of 36.88 ha and 32.49 ha.
Figure 1 Location of the typical case areas in Chongqing municipality, Southwest China

Note: Produced based on the standard map GS(2019)1823 of the Ministry of Natural Resources Standard Map Service website, with no modifications to the base map

2.1.3 Other related data

The data on abandoned farmland is derived from a representative survey on abandoned farmland in China conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Southwest University in 2015 and 2018. The survey covered 305 districts and counties, including both mountainous and non-mountainous areas. Mountainous counties were identified based on the criteria outlined in the China County Economic Statistics Yearbook (Li et al., 2017a), which defines them as counties where the mountainous area constitutes more than 80% of the total area. In 2020, there were 905 such counties in China. The list of poverty-stricken counties was obtained from the National Rural Revitalization Administration, as of February 2018, which had identified a total of 585 poverty-stricken counties in China. The data on environmentally vulnerable areas were based on counties implementing the “Grain for Green” program (Huang et al., 2021a). These data were used to analyze the spatial distribution characteristics of areas with frequent incidents of wild boar damage, abandoned farmland, poverty-stricken areas, and environmentally vulnerable areas. In addition, the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) for the growing season (April to October) in Yuyang county for the years 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020 was calculated based on Landsat 5, 7, and 8 surface reflectance data using the Google Earth Engine remote sensing cloud computing platform. The spatial resolution of the data was 30 m.

2.2 Methods

2.2.1 Meta-analysis method

The meta-analysis method is based on previous research results and systematically analyzes multiple independent experimental results with the same research purpose. It statistically analyzes the existing data from a macro perspective according to certain rules, which can reduce the differences and ineffectiveness of different research conclusions, reduce the negative impact of research conclusions, and improve the quality and value of original research. This method has been applied in social and natural science fields such as psychology, education, medicine, landscape architecture, and geography (Zhang et al., 2019). Therefore, the meta-analysis method can be used for quantitative integrated analysis of the samples of human-wild boar conflict events in China, and extract common rules of human-wild boar conflict events. Based on 733 incidents of wild boar damage in China, the period from the first wild boar damage incident to the present (2000-2021) is divided into four stages: 2000-2005, 2005-2010, 2010-2015, and 2015-2021. The spatial distribution, hazards, and compensation for losses of wild boar damage during different periods are analyzed, and spatial visualization analysis is conducted using frequency counting and spatial analysis methods.

2.2.2 Vegetation index calculation

Plant cover changes can more directly reflect changes in regional ecological environment quality. The enhanced vegetation index (EVI) can accurately characterize and differentiate plant cover and growth conditions and is one of the most widely used vegetation indices for regions with different vegetation cover degrees (Barati et al., 2011). In this study, we calculated the EVI based on Landsat surface reflectance data processed with cloud removal (Equation 1) and obtained annual growing season EVI data (from April to October each year) using the maximum synthesis method (Li et al., 2022). The formula is as follows:
$EVI=\frac{G\times \left( {{\rho }_{NIR}}-{{\rho }_{R}} \right)}{{{\rho }_{NIR}}+{{C}_{1}}\times {{\rho }_{R}}-{{C}_{2}}\times {{\rho }_{B}}+L}$
where ρNIR, ρR, and ρB represent the reflectance of near-infrared, red, and blue bands, respectively. G is the gain adjustment factor, which has a value of 2.5, and C1 and C2 are atmospheric adjustment parameters, with values of 6.0 and 7.5, respectively. L is the soil adjustment parameter with a value of 1.

3 Results

3.1 Interannual variation in human and wild boar conflicts

From 2000 to 2021, the number of wild boar damage incidents in China showed a significant annual increase (Figure 2), with a fitted curve showing an exponential function (y= 5.8748e0.124x, R2=0.878). The wild boar damage incidents experienced roughly three stages of development, with the number of damage incidents not exceeding 10 per year before 2003, between 20 and 40 per year from 2004 to 2016, and exceeding 40 per year after 2017, with the growth rate increasing further after 2018. In 2021, the number of damage incidents even exceeded 100, indicating a trend toward social risk.
Figure 2 Number of the human-wild boar conflict incidents from 2000 to 2021

3.2 Regional distribution of human and wild boar conflicts

Figure 3 shows the number of districts (counties) in China where wild boar damage incidents occurred increased from 67 in the early period to 399 in the recent period. The number of cities also increased from 41 in the early period to 147 in the recent period, and the number of provinces increased from 18 to 25. From 2000 to 2005, there were 67 districts (counties) where wild boar damage incidents occurred in China, mainly distributed in the hilly and mountainous counties of Chongqing municipality, as well as Hubei and Jilin provinces. After that, the damage incidents expanded from Chongqing and central-western Hubei to the surrounding areas. From 2005 to 2010, 42 new districts (counties) where wild boar damage incidents occurred were added, expanding from Chongqing, Hubei, and other areas to the hilly and mountainous counties of Anhui, Zhejiang, and other provinces. From 2010 to 2015, there were 67 new districts (counties) where wild boar damage incidents occurred, expanding further into eastern, southeastern, and northwestern mountainous counties on the basis of the original spatial area. From 2015 to 2021, 223 new districts (counties) where wild boar damage incidents occurred were added, mainly concentrated in the hilly and mountainous counties of Sichuan, Guizhou, the southeastern part of Gansu, and the central-southern part of Shaanxi, gradually forming the current spatial pattern of wild boar damage incidents. It is worth noting that among the 399 districts (counties) where wild boar damage incidents occurred in recent years, 291 of them were in mountainous counties, accounting for 72.93% of the total. Generally speaking, incidents involving wild boars are more common in mountainous counties where hilly and mountainous terrain is the predominant natural geographical feature.
Figure 3 Spatiotemporal patterns of human-wild boar conflict at county level in China from 2000 to 2021

Note: Produced based on the standard map GS (2019)1823 of the Ministry of Natural Resources Standard Map Service website, with no modifications to the base map

3.3 Damage characteristics of human and wild boar conflicts

3.3.1 Damages types of human and wild boar conflicts

From the current number of wild boar damage incidents occurring in various parts of China, the human-wild boar conflicts can be classified into four basic types of damage: the destruction of crops (67.81%), damage to livestock (8.53%), injury to humans (19.32%), and human fatalities (4.34%) (Figure 4). The destruction of crops is the most common type and has the widest spatial distribution (Figure 5). Further analysis shows that out of the 399 counties where wild boar damage incidents occurred, 204 of them also experienced abandoned farmland, accounting for 51.13%, indicating a high spatial correlation between wild boar damage incidents and farmland abandonment. Incidents of damage to poultry mainly occurred in the Yangtze River region, Guizhou, and Hunan, while incidents of human injury and death mainly occurred in hilly and mountainous counties in the south of Shaanxi, Heilongjiang, Jilin, and the Yangtze River region. It is worth noting that among the 399 records of wild boar damage incidents in China, 71 counties have already experienced incidents of wild boar causing human injuries or fatalities, accounting for 18% of the total.
Figure 4 Comparison of the quantities of the different damage types from 2000 to 2021
Figure 5 Spatial distribution of harm degree of the human-wild boar conflicts at county level in China

Note: Produced based on the standard map GS (2019)1823 of the Ministry of Natural Resources Standard Map Service website, with no modifications to the base map

3.3.2 Typical case of human and wild boar conflicts

The spatial relationship between the wild boar damage and abandoned farmland in Tiancang and Shuanglong villages (Figure 6) shows that the land plots abandoned solely due to wild boar damage exhibit a “widely distributed and sparsely scattered” pattern, mainly located in areas with high altitude, far from residential areas and water sources, and covered by dense vegetation. In contrast, the land plots abandoned due to various factors including wild boar damage exhibit a “relatively concentrated distribution” pattern, mainly located in plains and valleys with low altitude, and closer to roads and residential areas. This study attributed and analyzed the abandoned farmland in the study area (Table 2): there were 282 abandoned land plots, accounting for 64.53% of the total surveyed land plots; the area of abandoned land plots was 22.61 ha, accounting for 61.31% of the total surveyed area. Regardless of the number of land plots or the area, the abandoned farmland rate in the typical case area in 2020 exceeded 60%. Specifically, only 85 land plots (30.14%) were abandoned solely due to wild boar damage, while 126 land plots (44.68%) were abandoned due to both wild boar damage and other factors, and 71 land plots (about 25%) were abandoned due to non-wild boar damage factors. Therefore, the proportion of land plots directly or indirectly abandoned due to wild boar damage reached 74.82%. Similarly, for Shuanglong Village, the proportion of land plots and area abandoned directly or indirectly due to wild boar damage reached 80.4% and 77.59%, respectively (Table 2).
Figure 6 Spatial relationship between wild boar damage and abandoned farmland in the case area
Table 2 Attribution statistics of farmland abandonment in typical case areas
Plot type Tiancang village Shuanglong village
Number of plots Percentage (%) Plot size (ha) Percentage (%) Number of plots Percentage (%) Plot size (ha) Percentage (%)
Abandoned plots due to wild boar damage only 85 30.14 7.24 32.01 37 18.59 4.06 19.48
Abandoned plots due to wild boar damage and other factors 126 44.68 10.88 48.14 123 61.81 12.13 58.11
Abandoned plots with non-wild boar factors 71 25.18 4.49 19.85 39 19.60 4.68 22.41
Abandoned plots of land 282 100 22.61 100 199 100 20.87 100.00
Total research plots 437 36.88 328 32.49

Note: Non-wild boar factors include family labor shortage, distance from family, inferior land, natural disasters, water shortage, road occupation, etc.

In addition, the survey found that in 1990, there were incidents of farmland being abandoned due to wild boar damage in two survey villages in Youyang county, the typical case area. Subsequently, the number and area of land abandoned due to wild boar damage showed a continuously increasing trend (Figure 7). The number of abandoned land plots increased from 6 in 1990 to 371 in 2020, and the corresponding abandoned area increased from 0.11 ha to 34.31 ha. Through analysis of the EVI of Youyang county’s main years from 1990 to 2020, it was found that the vegetation index has been continuously increasing since the 1990s (Figure 8), and the ecological environment has significantly improved. Overall, as the ecological environment gradually improves, the human-wild boar conflicts continue to increase, and the number and area of farmland abandoned due to wild boar damage also increase accordingly. Currently, wild boar damage to crops has become one of the leading factors causing farmland abandonment in the typical case area, and the human-wild boar conflicts have caused serious abandonment of farmland.
Figure 7 The scale of abandoned farmland due to wild boar damage in typical areas from 1990 to 2020
Figure 8 Spatial distribution of EVI in Youyang county in 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020

4 Discussion

4.1 Drivers of the human and wild boar conflicts

Currently, the human-wild boar conflicts have become an international issue, and the wide-open spaces and strong survival ability of wild boars are the main reasons for frequent incidents of wild boar damage (Snow et al., 2017; Castillo-Contreras et al., 2021). In China, human-wild boar conflicts mainly occur in hilly and mountainous areas such as the Sichuan Basin, the Loess Plateau, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and the Changbai Mountains. The driving factors behind these conflicts exhibit distinct characteristics, and the root cause is the result of the combined effects of various factors such as ecological engineering, ecological environment restoration, hunting bans, unclear boundaries between agricultural land and ecological land, the strong survival ability of wild boars, and the lack of natural enemies.
First, the implementation of ecological engineering and improvements in the ecological environment have played significant roles in this context. In order to improve the ecological environment, China started a pilot project for returning farmland to forests and grasslands in 1999. According to the White Paper Twenty Years of Returning Farmland to Forests and Grasslands in China (1999-2019), released in 2020, approximately 34 million ha of farmland have been returned to forests and grasslands over the past 20 years, resulting in significant improvement of the ecological environment (Yang et al., 2020). Since 1994, China has been confiscating hunting guns nationwide and has banned hunting for over 20 years. In 2000, the List of Terrestrial Wildlife Protected by the State that are Beneficial or of Important Economic, Scientific and Research Value (Order No.7 of the State Forestry Administration) included wild boars in the scope of “three-have” protected animals and the population of wild boars began to recover. Simultaneously, farmers were prohibited from privately hunting wild boars except for driving them away, there are no other effective methods, which led to their population increasing continuously.
The amelioration of the ecological environment in these mountainous regions has provided an advantageous living environment for wild boars, resulting in their continued population growth. The process of urbanization, coupled with the escalating costs of agricultural labor, has prompted young laborers in rural areas to seek employment outside their villages. Consequently, the urban population experiences an annual growth of approximately 21 million individuals, while the rural population steadily declines. From 1995 to 2020, the agricultural labor force in China witnessed an average annual decrease of approximately 11 million people, with more pronounced reductions observed in mountainous regions (Li et al., 2015). At present, rural population mainly consists of women, children and the elderly, and their reliance on land has significantly diminished. This shift has resulted in changes in land use practices and intensity, gradually improving the ecological environment in rural areas (Li et al., 2017b). For instance, since the 1990s, rural areas have progressively transitioned to using gas as a fuel source, thereby reducing reliance on firewood (Lu et al., 2022). In addition, affected by national policies such as relocation and poverty alleviation, villagers living in mountainous areas, especially deep mountains, have gradually relocated, diminishing human disturbances in mountain forests. Consequently, vegetation in mountainous areas has recovered, leading to a significant improvement in the ecological environment (Li et al., 2017b; 2018; Lu et al., 2022).
Another significant driver of conflicts lies in the ambiguous and overlapping boundary between farmland and ecological land. As agricultural activities and urban development intensify, ecological land continuously succumbs to encroachment by agricultural and urban expansions. The growing demand for land resources due to population growth has led to the expansion of farmland into forests, encroaching on the original habitat of wild boars (Huang et al., 2021b). As the habitat range of wild boars decreases, they are forced to enter new areas for activities and foraging, and consequently, crops in the edge areas of forests become the target of wild boar destruction (Wang et al., 2018). Presently, hotspots of wild boar damage incidents are predominantly concentrated in regions such as the Sichuan Basin, Loess Plateau, middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, Changbai Mountains and other hilly areas, mostly in the areas where agriculture and forestry are intermixed, with farmland and forest spatially overlapping. Compared with wild plants, wild boars prefer food in farmland, such as corn, sweet potatoes, and peanuts, which are all high-quality food for wild boars. During crop maturation periods, wild boars will enter the farmland to feed, causing large-scale damage to crops and even complete crop failure (Hua et al., 2016). In addition, in recent years, China has carried out large-scale ecological protection red line delineation, which was completed at the end of 2020. The delineation of ecological protection red lines has a large area, a wide range, and strict control, resulting in significant improvement in the ecological system’s service value. However, it has also exacerbated the conflict between humans and wild boars to a certain extent (Wang et al., 2018).
Finally, the strong survival abilities and lack of natural predators among wild boars contribute to the conflicts. Wild boars have high reproductive capacity, with an average litter size of 6 to 8 piglets and reaching sexual maturity at 14 to 18 months of age (Jiang et al., 2018). The Zhejiang Province Terrestrial Wildlife Resources Survey Report shows that in 2000, there were about 29,000 wild boars in the entire province, which increased to over 100,000 in 2006, and reached 150,000 by 2010, a fivefold increase in just 10 years. It is estimated that there are currently over one million wild boars in China, with some areas experiencing an “overpopulation” situation. Wild boars are adaptable and omnivorous animals with large appetites (Richard et al., 2004). They can quickly adapt to different environments and are active in hilly areas, where they dig the soil and feed on crops. Due to the low population of large carnivorous mammals that serve as natural predators of wild boars, such as tigers, leopards, bears, and wolves, and their slow population recovery, wild boars lack natural predators (Nyhus et al., 2004) and their populations have been growing rapidly.

4.2 Implications for human and wild boar conflicts on ecosystem disservices

The conflict between protecting wildlife and ensuring the safety of people’s lives and property is a serious challenge facing China in achieving harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. Therefore, how to handle the relationship between ecological conservation and social and economic development needs to be examined from the perspective of ecosystem services (Li et al., 2013; Jiang et al., 2021). Generally speaking, ecosystem services can be divided into “long-term” services and “short-term” services, with “long-term” services being the ultimate goal of ecological civilization construction to achieve harmonious coexistence between humans and nature, but it requires multiple “short-term” services processes. However, as the ecological environment gradually recovers, the adverse impacts of the ecosystem on human production and life gradually become apparent, that is, the phenomenon of ecosystem disservices (Shackleton et al., 2016). In recent years, with the increasingly prominent negative impacts of ecosystem improvements on humans, the issue of ecosystem disservices has gradually received attention from scholars (Shackleton et al., 2016; Yang et al., 2019), but there is still no unified standard for its definition. Generally, ecosystem disservices are perceived or actual negative impacts on human well-being caused by the functions, processes, and attributes produced by the ecosystem (Shackleton et al., 2016), mainly manifested in direct impacts on human well-being from ecosystem processes or attributes, reduced ecosystem service functions due to ecosystem damage, and negative impacts on human well-being derived from ecosystem processes, such as wildlife damaging farmland, snake bites, and pollen allergies (Shackleton et al., 2016; Yang et al., 2019).
Ecosystem disservices require some natural elements to form an ecosystem, and these elements can have adverse effects on humans. Based on the characteristics and classification standards of ecosystem disservices, it can be determined that an increase in the population of wild animals, represented by wild boars, is a reflection of the improvement of the ecosystem. However, when the population of wild boars increases to the point where they destroy crops, harm poultry, or attack humans, causing negative impacts on local residents’ production and livelihoods, it becomes a typical manifestation of ecosystem disservices (Hua et al., 2016; Yang et al., 2020). It is worth noting that the current conflict between humans and wild boars in China is concentrated in the hilly and mountainous areas of the agricultural-forestry mixed zone, which overlaps spatially with the areas of serious fallow land, poverty alleviation, and ecological vulnerability, that is, the “four zones overlap,” seriously affecting fallow land management, improving farmers’ livelihoods, and promoting regional ecological security, and has become the most typical and representative manifestation of ecosystem disservices.

4.3 Regulatory strategies for human and wild boar conflicts

As the nation intensifies its efforts to protect the ecology and ecological environment in various regions continue to improve, the negative impact of wild animals, represented by wild boars, on the production and livelihoods of rural residents has spread from sporadic to extensive areas, reaching the hilly and mountainous counties in China. This has led to about 6.7 million ha of farmland facing abandonment, 40 million t of grain production capacity being damaged, and the livelihoods of 30 million farmers being affected. At present, local governments should actively formulate strategies for regulating the population of wild boars and improve the corresponding compensation mechanism for damage by wild boars, in order to alleviate the harm caused by conflicts between humans and wild boars. The following measures can be implemented:
Firstly, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration has revised the draft of the List of important terrestrial wild animals with ecological, scientific, and social values, removing wild boars from the list. This revision provides legal support for the scientific and phased protection of wild boars. To scientifically and moderately hunt wild boars, detailed assessments are required concerning hunting time, quantity, range, and frequency of wild boars in different regions, and supervision should be strengthened during the implementation process. Moreover, China currently has approximately 12,000 nature reserves, accounting for about 18% of the land area. Inside the nature reserves, the regulation of the population of wild animals and plants should be based on the protection of wild animals and plants, ensuring the normal functioning of the ecosystem, and the evolutionary potential of biological species. Given the vegetation destruction caused by wild boars in nature reserves and their competition for food with other herbivores, the population density of wild boars needs to be adjusted under strict scientific demonstration. Introducing natural enemies of wild boars and restoring the food chain of the ecosystem, as well as conducting scientific experiments such as sterilization, can also be considered. Outside the nature reserves, encompassing 82% of the national land, the regulation of wild animals and plants population should focus on safeguarding the production and livelihoods of humans and ensuring their safety, as well as controlling the rapid growth of the population of wild boars.
Furthermore, providing compensation for damages caused by wild boars is an effective economic measure to reduce the occurrence of such damage. Economic compensation can increase the tolerance of local residents towards wildlife, reduce retaliatory hunting, and promote wildlife conservation while balancing the costs and benefits of protecting wildlife (Zhou et al., 2008). Article 19 of the Wildlife Protection Law stipulates that “compensation shall be given by the local people’s government for personal injury or damage to crops or other property caused by wildlife protected by law. The funds needed for prevention and control of the harm caused by the key protected wildlife and the compensation shall be subsidized by the central finance in accordance with the relevant regulations of the state.” However, currently, only provinces such as Beijing, Shaanxi, Anhui, and Gansu have implemented compensation measures for personal and property losses caused by key terrestrial wildlife protection, and there are problems such as low compensation standards and difficulties in assessing the degree of damage. Therefore, the government should formulate detailed loss assessment standards and compensation systems, choose some pilot areas, and promote them comprehensively as soon as possible.

4.4 Synergistic evolutionary relationship of social-ecological systems

Drawing on the “pivot” concept model of the human-environment relationship evolution mechanism (Dong et al., 2021), this study explores the synergistic evolutionary relationship between natural ecological systems and social-economic systems (Figure 9). Under certain organizational structures and technological levels, the evolution of natural ecological systems and social-economic systems is influenced by multiple factors, such as human activities and climate change. When humans carry out activities such as returning farmland to forests and grasslands or banning hunting in a specific area, or when the climate environment improves, the ecological environment in that area improves, providing a good living environment for certain species of wildlife (such as wild boars). The population of the wildlife species grows rapidly, leading to the abandonment of farmland in the area, a decline in the livelihoods of farmers, and even forcing them to relocate. At the same time, the growth of the wildlife population is further fueled, exhibiting a typical ecosystem disservices phenomenon (Wang et al., 2018). Conversely, when humans engage in activities such as excessive grazing or excessive land cultivation in a specific area, the ecological environment in the region deteriorates, leading to a loss of biodiversity and ecological imbalance. For example, an excess of rodents (due to a lack of natural predators) can lead to crop failures and a decline in the sustainability of farmers’ livelihoods, exhibiting a typical decline in the value of ecosystem services (Dong et al., 2021). Both of the above states are imbalanced states of natural ecological systems and social-economic systems, and the two systems are difficult to synergistically evolve. Only when the natural ecological system and social-economic system are in a certain balance range, can the natural ecological system and social-economic system synergistically evolve. At this time, the ecosystem can fully play its potential ecosystem service value, thereby promoting harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.
Figure 9 Synergistic evolutionary relationship of social-ecological systems

5 Conclusions

The number, spatial range, and degree of harm caused by wild boar damage have exhibited an upward trend from 2000 to 2021, The affected regions have expanded from 18 provinces, 41 cities, and 67 districts/counties to 25 provinces, 147 cities, and 399 districts/counties. Initially concentrated in Chongqing municipality and Hubei province’s central and western parts, the damage incidents have subsequently spread to the surrounding areas. Currently, the focal point of damage incidents has shifted to hill and mountainous areas such as the Sichuan Basin, the Loess Plateau, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and Changbai Mountains. The main harm caused by wild boars is the destruction of crops, and this has become one of the important factors causing farmland abandonment in mountainous areas. In addition, the proportion of human casualties is relatively high, accounting for 23.66% of the total number of wild boar damage incidents.
This phenomenon is closely related to various factors, including ecological engineering, hunting bans, ambiguous boundaries between agricultural and ecological land, and the strong survival ability of wild boars coupled with the lack of natural predators. The large-scale delineation of ecological protection redlines and the strict management of ecological protection spaces by the government has, to some extent, contributed to the proliferation of wild boars in recent years. While ecological restoration provides ecosystem services for humans, it also has a negative impact, or ecosystem disservices, on humans. The government-led ecological construction is affecting the ecological security of some areas, presenting new challenges for comprehensive ecosystem management. Thus, it is necessary to conduct research on ecosystem disservices under the context of the main theme of ecosystem services. This can enable theoretical researchers and relevant departments to clearly understand the negative impact that the improvement of ecosystems may bring and to construct a theoretical framework for comprehensive ecosystem management.
In addition, conflicts between humans and wild boars reflect a conflict between human-dominated production spaces and wild boar-dominated ecological spaces concerning land utilization. This conflict is essentially a competition between humans and wild boars for specific land resources in certain areas, which presents huge challenges for optimizing and managing national land use. Currently, it is urgent to strengthen research on conflicts between humans and wildlife such as wild boars. It is particularly important to comprehensively understand the number of damaged farmland resources in the conflict zone, quantitatively evaluate the impact of wild boar damage on farmland abandonment and the livelihoods of farmers, and systematically reveal the impact of such conflicts on rural revitalization, and other related aspects.
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