Strange Science: Ecological Impacts of Mass Mortality

A blighted landscapeWhen many animals die at one time, what happens to the landscape where their carcasses remain?

Scientists at Mississippi State University came up with a way to study this question, while also dealing with an enormous problem of feral pigs in the area. The feral pigs, which were culled to stop their impacts on the area, were placed in a remote area where researchers could watch what would happen to the environment as their corpses decomposed.

The feral pig carcasses also attracted a large number of scavengers, which had their own ecological impact on the landscape. Three months after the experiment began, little remains of the actual carcasses, but the scientists continue to monitor the areas to see what happens next. They plan to check in on the area until it is indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape, though they are unsure at present how long that will take.

If you want to read more about this experiment, National Geographic has a story about it!

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