JAN 27, 2022 6:26 PM PST

Feral Swine Rooting out Drought-Weakened Salt Marshes

WRITTEN BY: Samantha Lott

Feral swine have been part of the American landscape for centuries, though they are not native. Pigs were released to the wild in early colonial times as an early food source and adjusted well to the wild. In the early 1900s, Eurasian wild boars were also introduced as sport hunting animals. These two populations interbred and are now considered a single invasive pest species across much of the United States. In the last decade, feral hogs have rapidly spread up from the southernmost states and are now found in at least thirty-five states. The USDA estimates there are more than six million feral hogs in the US as of the last survey in 2019, which is about triple their population in 1982.

Feral Hogs can cause all sorts of problems, like e. coli and other parasite contamination from wallowing in mudholes along streams, digging up irrigation lines, eating crops, and causing property damage through digging or collisions with vehicles. The digging from feral hogs also disrupts soils and causes carbon emissions from the soil of nearly five million metric tonnes per year, which is equivalent to 1.1 million passenger vehicles.

Recently, some scientists found hogs in a new area, causing new damage. On Sapelo Island, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, feral hogs were recently found gorging themselves on ribbed mussels, a unique food source scientists were not aware hogs had learned to eat. The mussels live on cordgrass, a very important plant in saltwater marshes. Cordgrass and the mussels live together in a symbiotic relationship. They hold the marsh together, helping soils accumulate, storing carbon, and defending against ever-increasing droughts. The feral swine are trampling the cordgrass and eating the mussels, threatening this unique ecosystem when it is already under threat from persistent droughts. The salt marshes along our coasts protect our shores from flooding and erosion, and the feral hogs are threatening them.

Sources: Science Line, USDA APHIS, Global Change Biology

About the Author
MS in Renewable Natural Resources
A dedicated and passionate naturalist, nature photographer, and freshwater biologist.
You May Also Like
FEB 12, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Grey Wolves Return to Endangered Species List
FEB 12, 2022
Grey Wolves Return to Endangered Species List
Grey wolves once ranged across most of the contiguous US. The government promoted hunting and trapping them in the early ...
MAR 18, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Space Junk: Can We Make Space Sustainable?
MAR 18, 2022
Space Junk: Can We Make Space Sustainable?
In 1957, Soviets launched Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite ever sent to orbit, ushering in the beginning of the ...
MAR 23, 2022
Microbiology
Microbes Can Consume Methane to Make Fuel
MAR 23, 2022
Microbes Can Consume Methane to Make Fuel
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and atmospheric levels have been steadily increasing. There are germs that consume m ...
APR 15, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Immigration Patterns of Women Changed the Bronze Age in Scotland as we know it
APR 15, 2022
Immigration Patterns of Women Changed the Bronze Age in Scotland as we know it
Both Geneticists and Archaeologists at the University of Huddersfield have joined together to further research regarding ...
APR 30, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Dying Stars Can Give Birth to Planets too
APR 30, 2022
Dying Stars Can Give Birth to Planets too
It has been known for ages that the Earth orbits around the Sun along with 7 more planets and dwarf planets among many o ...
MAY 22, 2022
Technology
Psychological Hurdles Preventing People From Buying Electric Cars
MAY 22, 2022
Psychological Hurdles Preventing People From Buying Electric Cars
New research suggests that persistent cognitive and psychological barriers prevent people from purchasing electric vehic ...
Loading Comments...