Biological Invasions

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 125–140

Vegetation response to removal of non-native feral pigs from Hawaiian tropical montane wet forest

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10530-013-0508-x

Cite this article as:
Cole, R.J. & Litton, C.M. Biol Invasions (2014) 16: 125. doi:10.1007/s10530-013-0508-x


Globally, non-native ungulates threaten native biodiversity, alter biotic and abiotic factors regulating ecological processes, and incur significant economic costs via herbivory, rooting, and trampling. Removal of non-native ungulates is an increasingly common and crucial first step in conserving and restoring native forests. However, removal is often controversial and there is currently little information on plant community responses to this management action. Here, we examine the response of native and non-native understory vegetation in paired sites inside and outside of exclosures across a 6.5–18.5 year chronosequence of feral pig (Sus scrofa) removal from canopy-intact Hawaiian tropical montane wet forest. Stem density and cover of native plants, species richness of ground-rooted native woody plants, and abundance of native plants of conservation interest were all significantly higher where feral pigs had been removed. Similarly, the area of exposed soil was substantially lower and cover of litter and bryophytes was greater with feral pig removal. Spatial patterns of recruitment were also strongly affected. Whereas epiphytic establishment was similar between treatments, the density of ground-rooted woody plants was four times higher with feral pig removal. Abundance of invasive non-native plants also increased at sites where they had established prior to feral pig removal. We found no patterns in any of the measured variables with time, suggesting that commonly occurring species recover within 6.5 years of feral pig removal. Recovery of species of conservation interest, however, was highly site specific and limited to areas that possessed remnant populations at the time of removal, indicating that some species take much longer (>18.5 years) to recover. Feral pig removal is the first and most crucial step for conservation of native forests in this area, but subsequent management should also include control of non-native invasive plants and outplanting native species of conservation interest that fail to recruit naturally.


DisturbanceNon-native invasive ungulatesRestorationSus scrofaTropical montane wet forest

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Arctic and Alpine ResearchUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental ManagementUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA