Wild pigs pollute the climate for up to 1 million cars
Almost two years ago we all had a good laugh at 30 to 50 feral pigs. Turns out all these pigs aren’t just a horribly invasive species, but they could wreak havoc on climate change. Wild pigs around the world release the equivalent of 1.1 million cars of carbon dioxide each year just by digging in the earth, according to a new study published Monday in Global Change Biology.
“Since wild pigs are known to damage soil, we realized that no other study had looked at the total area at risk globally,” said Christopher O’Bryan, senior author of the study and researcher at the University of Queensland, said via email. “Knowing how important soil is for carbon storage, we wanted to assess the risk of soil damage by feral pigs on carbon emissions. “
Pigs can be really cute, sure, but that’s really bad news. Wild pigs endanger native species in danger of extinction. They also tear crops apart, causing between $ 1.5 billion and $ 2.5 billion in damage in the United States (a group of feral pigs even killed a woman in Texas in 2019.)
“Wild pigs are basically rogue farm animals,” O’Bryan said.
All of this crop destruction isn’t just bad for business, it’s bad for the planet. The soil is filled with carbon dioxide, and it has been well documented that human agricultural activity which disturbs the soil, such as the very common practice of plowing—Takes up the carbon stored underground and promotes its release into the air. But there has been surprisingly little research on how invasive species can also stir things up when they disturb the soil. It goes without saying that pigs, which are essentially small tractors, would have a similar effect: their whole agreement dig in the dirt for food, which means they can really uproot a pile of dirt.
O’Bryan said that while further research has looked at the carbon footprint of pigs locally in Switzerland, China and the Americas, this is the first study to “connect the dots globally.” In order to fully calculate the impact of feral pigs around the world, O’Bryan and his team created three models: one that predicts feral pig densities, one that converts pig density to disturbed soil area, and one that estimates carbon emissions. They then performed 10,000 simulations to account for potential uncertainties in each model.
According to models developed by O’Bryan and colleagues, wild pigs uproot between nearly 14,000 square miles (36,214 square kilometers) and 47,690 square miles (123,517 square kilometers) in their non-native habitats. And all this digging has serious consequences for the carbon dioxide stored in the soil. About 5.37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are released each year of wild pig activities.
While we can all enjoy a pork joke every now and then, this research shows that the problems with feral pigs are becoming more and more urgent to address. Scientists have called wild pigs or Sus scrofa, “one of the most prolific invasive mammals on Earth.” In the United States alone, pig populations have gone from being present in 27 states in 2000 to date in 48 states; their population ranges between 6 and 7 million in the United States, and experts say managing this large group of pigs could mean a slaughter of 60 to 80 percent of them. (Ironically, part of the reason they’re spreading so quickly in the United States, experts believe, is that people love to hunt them—Succession, nobody?– then some lead the pigs to new areas and then allow the population to expand.) The new findings show that their impact on the climate is one more reason to end the reign of terror of feral pigs.
“Invasive species are a man-made problem, so we need to recognize and take responsibility for their environmental and ecological implications,” said Nicholas Patton, PhD student at the University of Canterbury and co-author of the study. in a press release. “If invasive pigs are allowed to spread into areas where soil carbon is abundant, the risk of greenhouse gas emissions in the future could be even greater. … The control of feral pigs will certainly require cooperation and collaboration across multiple jurisdictions, and our work is only one piece of the puzzle, helping managers better understand their impacts.