Title

Livestock as a potential biological control agent for an invasive wetland plant

Document Type

Article

Version

Final Published Version

Publication Title

PeerJ

Volume

2:e567

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

Invasive species threaten biodiversity and incur costs exceeding billions of US$. Erad- ication eVorts, however, are nearly always unsuccessful. Throughout much of North America, land managers have used expensive, and ultimately ineVective, techniques to combat invasive Phragmites australis in marshes. Here, we reveal that Phragmites may potentially be controlled by employing an aVordable measure from its native European range: livestock grazing. Experimental field tests demonstrate that rota- tional goat grazing (where goats have no choice but to graze Phragmites) can reduce Phragmites cover from 100 to 20% and that cows and horses also readily consume this plant. These results, combined with the fact that Europeans have suppressed Phragmites through seasonal livestock grazing for 6,000 years, suggest Phragmites management can shift to include more economical and eVective top-down control strategies. More generally, these findings support an emerging paradigm shift in conservation from high-cost eradication to economically sustainable control of dominant invasive species.

DOI

10.7717/peerj.567