GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 182-13
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


HARRISON IV, George William Mallory and ROBERTS, Emily A., Natural Resources, Hot Springs National Park, 101 Reserve Street, Hot Springs, AR 71901,

The National Park Service’s commitment to maintaining natural areas necessitates the removal of invasive plants as well as the promotion of native vegetation in park land. These tasks are complicated by Hot Springs National Park’s (HOSP) emphasis on protecting cultural resources, which precludes techniques that involve ground disturbance and by its sensitive thermal water resources, which may be negatively impacted by herbicide use.

This experiment is designed to determine whether goats are a viable alternative to fire, hand-removal, or herbicide usage in areas heavily infested with invasive vegetation. We are also investigating the impacts of field size on the foraging patterns of goats.

The study site is a former residential neighborhood and as a result of disturbance from homebuilding and automobile traffic, invasive vegetation outcompetes native plant species. Invasive plants are shading and choking out native pine saplings that were previously planted to reestablish a forest. The pines are protected from goats with a mesh barrier.

Thirty seven goats grazed for 9 days in a ½ acre plot before being moved to the next ½ acre plot. After 9 more days, they moved to a 1 acre plot where they fed for 18 days. A 1 acre control plot was left ungrazed for future studies on the long-term impact of grazing. Once the goats stripped the lower privet leaves, remaining privet thickets were cut to allow the goats to debark the stumps; privet in the control field was cut without grazing. In order to quantify the foraging habits of the goats, we surveyed the percent coverage of native and invasive plant species in 100 randomly generated 1m2 plots both before and after the goats were present in each field.

Preliminary results indicate that goats remove all vegetation except invasive Vinca major and that our initial pine protection techniques largely failed. Modification of the mesh wrapping improved pine survival.