This study aimed to examine the effects of different levels of pig density on native Hawaiian forest vegetation. Pig sign was measured across four pig management units in the 'Öla'a Forest from 1998 through 2004 and pig density estimated based upon pig activity. Six paired vegetation monitoring plots were established in the units, each pair straddling a pig fence. Percent cover and species richness of understory vegetation, ground cover, alien species, and preferred pig forage plants were measured in 1997 and 2003 and compared with pig density estimates. Rainfall and hunting effort and success by management personnel were also tracked over the study period. Vegetation monitoring found a higher percentage of native plants in pig-free or low-pig areas compared to those with medium or high pig densities, with no significant change in the percent native plant species between the first and second monitoring periods. Differences between plots were strongly affected by location, with a higher percentage of native plants in western plots, where pig damage has historically been lower. Expansion of this survey with more plots would help improve the statistical power to detect differences in vegetation caused by pigs. Because of the limited vegetation sampling in this study, the results must be viewed as descriptive. We compare the vegetation within 30 x 30 m plots across three thresholds of historical pig density and show how pig densities can change in unanticipated directions within management units. While these results cannot be extrapolated to area-wide effects of pig activity, these data do contribute to a growing body of information on the impacts of feral pigs on Hawaiian plant communities.
Additional publication details
A preliminary study of effects of feral pig density on native Hawaiian montane rainforest vegetation