Using Goats to Control Invasive Buckthorn

Ecology and Environment

In order to control the invasive species buckthorn, land managers have turned to using goats. The notoriously voracious browsers eat large quantities of buckthorn, but there is a concern that buckthorn seeds might be spread through the goats’ feces.

MSI PI Tiffany Wolf (assistant professor, Veterinary Population Medicine) and her colleagues have published results of research that tested whether goats contribute to the spread of buckthorn. Their paper, published in The Nature Areas Journal, showed that only a small percentage (2%) of buckthorn seeds survive their trip through the goat digestive tract, and only 11% of those seeds are viable. As a contrast, 63% of seeds not eaten by goats are able to germinate.

An article about this research appears on the UMN website: Research Brief: Goat grazing helps control buckthorn growth. The paper can be found on the journal website: Goat digestion leads to low survival and viability of common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) seeds.

Professor Wolf uses MSI for metagenomic research into brainworm, which is considered to be a factor in the decline of Minnesota’s moose population.