Impacts of Invasive Wild Pigs, Sus scrofa, on Water Quality and Public Health
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Forestry and Wildlife Science
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Native across Europe and Asia and introduced to approximately 59 countries, wild pigs, Sus scrofa, are the most widespread swine species in the world. As a prolific invasive species, wild pigs cause significant ecological and economic problems across their non-native range through their role as ecosystem engineers. The southeastern United States is particularly at risk to their numerous, complex impacts on ecosystem processes due to the abundance of forested wetland and riparian habitat, extensive forested and agricultural land use, and high density of wild pigs. Already home to half of the nation's estimated six million wild pigs, populations of wild pigs in the southeastern United States are rapidly growing and expanding their range. The impacts of this rapidly growing population pose a substantial risk to the health of the region’s abundance of biodiverse wetland ecosystems. In addition to their negative impacts on the region’s ecosystem and agricultural production, wild pigs pose a significant risk to the health of humans, livestock, and wildlife. 87% of identified swine diseases are zoonotic causing clinical disease in humans, livestock, and wildlife. With the majority of these identified zoonoses impacting humans and livestock, wild pig populations in the southeast pose a significant risk to public health and livestock production. An expensive and rapidly expanding issue, there is a growing need to determine the extent of impacts of wild pigs on natural processes in the southeastern United States. In collaboration with the Alabama Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (FSCP) and with additional support from the USDA-APHIS, this research conducted from 2020-2023 in the Coastal Plain region of Alabama evaluates the impacts of wild pigs on water quality, their role in pathogen transmission through contamination of surface waters, and the effectiveness of widescale wild pig removal efforts on remediating these impacts.