Ground disturbance by feral pigs: Ecosystem engineering or just rooting around?

Ground disturbance by pigs could lead to the selective removal of specific elements of the below ground subsystem (i.e. mycorrhiza, macroinvertebrates), or their indirect elimination through modification of physical and chemical soil characteristics. In either case, these changes could reduce the efficiency or entirely disengage any or all of critical feedback mechanisms linking above- and below-ground ecosystem components. If feedbacks are disrupted over periods sufficient to affect structure and functioning of above-ground vegetation, ground disturbance by pigs may lead to permanent replacement of components of the vegetation, or reduced resilience of the vegetation community to natural or human induced disturbance. To develop pig control strategies which protect the long-term viability of the vegetation community, pig abundance would need to be linked to the extent of ground disturbance to changes in soil nutrient pool, and changes in the soil nutrient pool to vegetation growth and survival. We describe a preliminary model that links pig abundance to the extent of ground disturbance. The model is used to identify key parameters for estimation, and to indicate the spatial scale at which changes in key soil characteristics pools might need to be assessed.

Author Choquenot, D. and Parkes, J.
Date 2005-05-02
Year 2005
Secondary title 13th Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference
Place published Wellington, NZ
Publisher Landcare Research
Institution Landcare Research
Pages 275-281
Region NZ
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