Wild boars emit the identical emissions as 1 million automobiles every year – Watts Up With That?
Christopher J. O’Bryan, University of Queensland; Eve McDonald-Madden, University of Queensland; Jim Hone, Canberra University; Matthew H. Holden, University of Queensland, and Nicholas R. Patton, University of Canterbury
Whether you call them wild boars, wild boars, pigs, pigs, or even razorbacks, wild boars are one of the most harmful invasive species on earth and have been known for harming agriculture and native wildlife.
One big reason they’re so harmful is that they uproot the ground on a massive scale like tractors plow a field. Our new study, published today, is the first to calculate the global extent of it and its impact on CO2 emissions.
Our results have been overwhelming. We discovered that the total area of land uprooted by wild boar is likely the same area as Taiwan. 4.9 million tons of carbon dioxide are released annually – that’s the equivalent of one million cars. Most of these emissions come from Oceania.
Much of the earth’s carbon is stored in the soil, so even a small amount of it in the atmosphere can have a major impact on climate change.
The problem with pigs
Wild boars (Sus scrofa) are native to much of Europe and Asia, but today they live on every continent except Antarctica, making them one of the most widespread invasive mammals on the planet. It is estimated that there are three million wild boars in Australia alone.
Wild boars are one of the most widespread invasive animals on earth. 123rf.com
It is estimated that wild boars destroy crops and pastures worth more than A $ 100 million ($ 74 million) each year in Australia, and more than $ 270 million (A $ 366 million) in just 12 states in the United States.
Wild boar was also found to directly threaten 672 species of vertebrates and plants in 54 different countries. These include the endangered Australian ground frogs, tree frogs and several species of orchids as pigs destroy their habitats and hunt on them.
Their geographic reach is expected to expand in the coming decades, suggesting that their threats to food security and biodiversity are likely to worsen. But let’s focus here on their contribution to global emissions.
Your carbon footprint
Previous research has highlighted the potential contribution of wild boar to greenhouse gas emissions, but only at the local level.
Such a study was carried out in deciduous forests in Switzerland for three years. The researchers found that wild boars lead to an increase in carbon emissions in the soil by about 23% per year.
Similarly, a study in China’s Jigong Mountains National Nature Reserve found that soil emissions in places disturbed by wild boars have increased by more than 70% per year.
Wild boars turn over 36,214 to 123,517 square kilometers of soil each year. 123rf.com
To find out what the impacts were on a global scale, we ran 10,000 simulations of wild boar populations in their non-native distribution, including in the Americas, Oceania, Africa, and parts of Southeast Asia.
For each simulation, we determined the amount of soil that would disturb it by using a different model from a different study. Finally, we used local case studies to calculate the minimum and maximum amount of carbon emissions caused by wild boars.
And we estimate that the ground boars uprooted around the world each year are between 36,214 and 123,517 square kilometers – or between the sizes of Taiwan and England.
Most of this soil degradation and related emissions occur in Oceania due to the large abundance of wild boar there and the amount of carbon stored in the soil in that region.
Read more: Wild boars damage wildlife and biodiversity as well as crops
So how exactly are disturbing soil emissions released?
Wild boars dig up earth with their hard snouts in search of parts of plants such as roots, mushrooms and invertebrates. This “plowing” behavior often disrupts the soil at a depth of about five to 15 centimeters, which is roughly the depth used by farmers in tillage.
In search of food, wild boars uproot soils such as invertebrates and plant roots. University of Kentucky, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Forestry Expansion.
Since wild boars are very social and often feed in large groups, they can completely destroy a small paddock in a short time. This makes them a formidable enemy of the organic carbon stored in the soil.
In general, soil organic carbon is the balance between inputs of organic matter into the soil (such as fungi, animal waste, root growth and leaf litter) versus outputs (such as decomposition, respiration and erosion). This balance is an indicator of soil health.
When soils are disturbed, whether by plowing a field or digging or uprooting an animal, carbon is released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas.
This is because digging the soil exposes it to oxygen, and oxygen promotes the rapid growth of microbes. These revitalized microbes, in turn, break down the carbon-containing organic matter.
Wild boars have a high breeding rate, making it difficult to control populations. 123rf.com
Hard and cunning
Controlling wild boars is incredibly difficult and costly because of their cunning behavior, fast breeding rate, and overall tough nature.
For example, wild boars are known to avoid traps if previously caught and are trained to change their behavior to avoid hunters.
Read more: Dig this up: A tiny ant urchin moves 8 trailerloads of earth a year, helping fight climate change
In Australia, management efforts include coordinated hunting events to slow the spread of wild boar populations. Other techniques include setting up traps and installing fences to prevent the spread of wild boar, or air control programs.
Some of these control methods can also cause significant CO2 emissions, e.g. B. the use of helicopters for air control and other vehicles for hunting. Still, the long-term benefits of reducing wild boar can far outweigh these costs.
Efforts to reduce global emissions are no easy task, and our study is another tool in the toolkit for assessing the threats posed by this widespread invasive species.
Read more: Tiny Game of Thrones: The workers of the yellow crazy ants can act like lazy would-be queens. So we saw them fight
Christopher J. O’Bryan, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland; Eve McDonald-Madden, Associate Professor at the University of Queensland; Jim Hone, Professor Emeritus, Canberra University; Matthew H. Holden, Lecturer, School of Mathematics and Physics, The University of Queensland, and Nicholas R. Patton, Ph.D. Candidate, Canterbury University
This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.