New CSP study predicts areas that are at risk of wild pig invasion
CSP’s latest work on wild pigs, one of the most destructive invasive species in the world, identifies a need for aggressive management to prevent far-reaching impacts.
A group of researchers led by CSP’s Dr. Jesse Lewis recently published a study in Nature Scientific Reports on invasive wild pigs, also known as feral swine. The study, entitled “Biotic and abiotic factors predicting the global distribution and population density of an invasive large mammal,” represents a collaboration between CSP, Colorado State University, and the USDA Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health. The researchers analyzed data from five continents — North America, South America, Africa, Eurasia, and Australia — to map predicted pig population densities and found a great potential for them to expand their geographic ranges. By identifying the areas that are at risk of invasion, this work provides a basis for informing and prioritizing management actions.
Wild pigs have become an increasingly important research topic because they are highly destructive — and because their populations can expand rapidly under the right conditions. Each year, they cause an estimated $1.5 billion in damage in the U.S. alone, impacting natural ecosystems, residential developments, agricultural fields, and rangelands. Their populations are expanding in response to various factors, including illegal translocations by people (for hunting) and human-induced land use changes.
The study also found that incorporating biotic factors such as predation and vegetation into species distribution models can improve their predictive ability. Biotic factors have traditionally been underrepresented in such models. According to Lewis, a combination of both biotic and abiotic factors — plant productivity, forage and water availability, cover, predation, and land use changes — had the greatest impact on wild pig distribution and densities.