Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hungry goats improve habitat for rare native species in Iowa project

The following is from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University:

MAXWELL, Iowa — At the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt in Polk County, researchers have developed a novel tool for restoring biodiversity to a landscape choked by invasive species: Set loose a herd of hungry goats.

The project began in 2008 when the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture awarded a competitive grant to Iowa Heartland Resource Conservation and Development to study the benefits of incorporating livestock onto conservation lands. By dining on unwanted buckthorn, goats helped restore a rare swamp white oak savannah and created habitat for a wide array of native species, including Blanding’s turtles, listed as threatened in Iowa.

Loren Lown, natural resource specialist for the Polk County Conservation Board, leads the project. Lown asked Deb and Eric Finch of State Center, Iowa, to let their herd of 30-plus goats browse at Chichaqua Bottoms, a 7,300-acre greenbelt along the Skunk River. The partnership allowed the Finches to raise healthy goats and rest their home pastures while Lown cleaned up the ecosystem.

The goats, rotated through a 10-acre area divided into three paddocks, munched on invasive buckthorn and other unwanted plants. Goats prefer to eat twigs, leaves and woody species first, leaving the herbaceous layer alone. Lown described them as “little buckthorn bombs.”

Read more here ...

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