Impacts of wild pigs (Sus scrofa) on nutrient cycling and water quality in riparian areas
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Forestry and Wildlife Science
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Wild pigs (Sus scrofa) are a highly invasive species in the United States and millions of dollars are spent annually on removal efforts and damage reduction. Wild pigs may act as ecosystem engineers in areas where they are established, so it is important to fully understand their impacts to predict how environments they invade may change. Changes in riparian ecosystems should be of special concern as they provide important ecosystem services and are susceptible to disturbance. We examined changes in biogeochemical processes at the terrestrial-aquatic interface at a property that was densely populated by wild pigs. Nitrogen mineralization rates were estimated for floodplain soils disturbed by wild pig rooting, and erosion and accretion of stream bank sediment was recorded to estimate the effects of wild pigs on bank stability. Water quality parameters and fecal bacteria concentrations were measured to determine the impacts of wild pigs on water quality in small forested watersheds. Although the effects of wild pigs may vary depending on local environmental conditions and habitat types, our findings suggest that wild pigs impact nutrient cycling and water quality in riparian areas.