Feral swine -- Ecology -- Florida, Feral swine -- Economic aspects -- Florida, Feral swine -- Florida, Introduced mammals -- Florida
Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) are considered to be among the world’s worst invasive species due to their successful invasion and ecological and economic impact to native and agricultural plants and animals around the world. Feral pigs are significant disturbance agents that destroy plant communities, change soil characteristics, alter nutrient cycling, and create open sites for colonization of both native and non-native plant species through their foraging behavior called rooting. In contrast to native animal disturbances, rooting is a striking feature in the landscape that varies in space, seasonal timing, frequency (number of times rooted), and intensity (depth of rooting). During this study, feral pigs rooted 7.7% of the search area, which increased to 12% when abandoned patches (baseline patches that were not rooted during this study) were included. Overall, feral pigs rooted and re-rooted habitats along roads and trails significantly more than wetlands. Rooting also varied temporally with the most rooting occurring during July-November, which also corresponds to the peak in rooting intensity. Implications to land managers include avoiding the installation of roads and trails near wet to mesic habitats or other habitats that contain species of concern in order to conserve habitat quality and recreational value. Despite less rooting activity, feral pigs still pose a significant threat to wetlands as evidenced by the large amount of abandoned patches documented. In order to conserve natural areas, effective management and development of efficient control methods is needed to keep feral pig populations in check. As a large opportunistic omnivore, feral pigs have the potential to be important vectors for endozoochorus seed dispersal of a variety of plant species. Feral pigs can travel long iv distances and have a gut retention time up to 49 hours, therefore seeds can be deposited throughout the landscape far from the parent plant. Over the course of this study, feral pigs dispersed 50 plant species from a wide range of ecological and morphological characteristics, though the majority were native, small seeded, wetland species. For most plant species, location of deposition matched their habitat preference and suggests a high probability of survival. Feral pigs disperse mainly wetland plant species, which has important implications for wetland conservation. However, feral pigs also deposited unwanted species into wetlands and predated the seeds of important wetland canopy tree species.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Brescacin, Camille Rose, "The Role Of The Feral Pig (sus Scrofa) As A Disturbance Agent And Seed Disperser In Central Florida's Natural Lands" (2010). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1596.