By Gina Beebe, University of Missouri
Presented on January 12, 2021
Goats and fuel loadings – a relationship that has been little studied, particularly in eastern forested systems, and is piquing the interest of fuels managers across the United States. Surface fuels play a critical role in fire regimes. The removal of surface fuels greatly reduces the likelihood of fire hazard and stand-replacing crown fires. In many locations throughout the United States, surface fuels have accrued to level of management concerns. Low-intensity prescribed fires are often used to achieve desirable fuel loading, but this tool can be limited due to constraints associated with wildland-urban interface. Managers need more options that are suitable fire surrogates.
Targeted browsing has been demonstrated to mimic many effects of prescribed fire and may increase the diversity of management strategies for fuels manages. Targeted browsing can be defined as the utilization of livestock, with an established intensity and seasonality, to achieve specific objectives. Goats can consume and reduce fuel loading from grasses and forbs, but their dietary preference is woody species. This makes them an ideal candidate to decrease vertical fuels from understory and midstory stems. Further, goat trampling has been shown to notably reduce litter, 1-hour, and 10-hour fuels. Browsing in combination with prescribed fire may decrease fuel loads to a greater degree by allowing for disturbance when fire conditions are not favorable. The novel research objectives of this study include assessing the impacts of seasonal targeted browsing and the impacts of the interaction between fire and targeted browsing on litter, duff, live fuels, vertical continuity of fuels, and downed woody material by time lag class.
In collaboration with the Mark Twain National Forest this study investigated the following treatments: a dormant bud, spring, and fall browse, prescribed burning, and the interaction of prescribed burning with a spring browse event. Additionally, we compared the effects of goat browse and fire between two ecosystem types: a short-leaf pine dominated stand and an oak/hickory dominated stand.