Feral hogs control brackish marsh plant communities over time.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Feral hogs modify ecosystems by consuming native species and altering habitat structure. These invasions can generate fundamentally different post-invasion habitats when disturbance changes community structure, ecosystem function, or recovery dynamics. Here, we use multiple three-year exclusion experiments to describe how feral hogs affect hyper-productive brackish marshes over time. We find that infrequent yet consistent hog foraging and trampling suppresses dominant plants by generating a perpetually disturbed habitat that favors competitively inferior species and disallows full vegetative recovery over time. Along borders between plant monocultures, trampling destroys dominant graminoids responsible for most aboveground marsh biomass while competitively inferior plants increase fivefold. Hog activities shift the brackish marsh disturbance regime from pulse to press, which changes the plant community: competitively inferior plants increase coverage, species diversity is doubled, and live cover is lowered by 30% as large plants are unable to take hold in hog-disturbed areas. Release from disturbance does not result in complete recovery (i.e., dominant plant monocultures) because hog consumer control is a combination of both top-down control and broader engineering effects. These results highlight how habitats are susceptible to invasive effects outside of structural destruction alone, especially if large consumers are pervasive over time and change the dynamics that sustain recovery.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hensel, MJS; Silliman, BR; Hensel, E; Byrnes, JEK

Published Date

  • February 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 103 / 2

Start / End Page

  • e03572 -

PubMed ID

  • 34706065

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-9170

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0012-9658

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ecy.3572


  • eng