Invasive Species Handled, Naturally

Instead of using pesticides and herbicides that cause extensive environmental damage, conservationists are now using goats and sheep to clear away invasive plant species (weeds). These sheep and goats will eat the invasive plants until the root slowly becomes weaker and weaker, allowing native vegetation to be able to flourish once again.

The University of Georgia’s Grounds Department has found that sheep are perfect tools in getting rid of invasive plant species that are blocking access to a major waterway, wrote the Southeast Farm Press. Apparently the invasive species were forming a barrier and displacing the diverse, native species. So in late February, thirty sheep (and two donkeys to ward off predators) were dispatched between the Oconee River and UGA’s East Campus.

Unlike goats or cows, sheep are perfectly suited to clearing invasive plants since they do not disturb either the water’s edge or trees. Moreover, they do not impact the soil, and thus do not contribute to soil erosion. Instead of using harmful pesticides to clear away the invasive species, the sheep will return whenever they are needed without causing the extensive damage of pesticides. Their next visit will likely be in late summer.

Goat 2Meanwhile, over 400 goats are being used to clear the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve and restore the natural flora and fauna. Goats are used since they are known to eat “everything in sight” and grazing has become common practice in the attempt to control invasive species, reports the Los Angeles Times.  By eating the invasive weeds, goats help native species return to the region. The goats will eat about half an acre of weed a day, and their herder confirms that the valley will be unrecognizable within a few days. After the goats are finished, the conservancy is going to restore coastal sage, cactus shrub, and other native vegetation. For now the goats are munching away while their herder enjoys the view from his ‘office’.

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Alison Wheatley

Alison Wheatley

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