Goats Restore Clayton Hill
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is thrilled to announce that new restoration work is officially underway in Clayton Hill, a three-acre area in Frick Park's 155-acre woodland! The restoration project will introduce a herd of 11 goats to the restoration site to complete multiple, month-long periods of browsing. Goats will be 'working' areas around Clayton Hill beginning in August through the Fall months and again in 2021 and 2022. The target species of the restoration work is bush honeysuckle.
Did you know that using goats for invasive management has a long history in the U.S., especially in western states where goats are used to browse forests for fire control, manage invasives on grazing lands, or maintain utility right-of-ways? With increasing frequency, goats are proving an attractive option to manage campus landscapes for universities with schools of agriculture, and they have even been used in airport fields in Portland, Oregon.
Additional invasive and non-native species targeted for removal at this site include mile a minute, multiflora rose, poison ivy, porcelain berry, oriental bittersweet, and garlic mustard. Dense thickets of bush honeysuckle dominate the site, outcompeting desirable native woodland species and creating deep shade that prevents the germination of native plants. Explore Invasive Plants of Pittsburgh to learn more.
In addition, avian research has shown that bush honeysuckle is a sink habitat for birds. A sink is a place that draws an animal there because it appears to be a good place to live and feed, but it is not. Its berries, although attractive to birds, are a low-nutrient food source.
After the honeysuckle has been removed, native shrubs and trees will be planted by staff and volunteers. These native plants are important to moths and butterflies; caterpillars being a primary food source for migratory and breeding birds. Removal of the bush honeysuckle will not only benefit the tree and plant communities at the site but also will improve the area as a breeding habitat for birds and a fuel source for migrants.
Another important part of this project is the vegetation and bird data monitoring that will occur. How do we know if we are improving our forest? Staff and researchers at the Western PA Conservancy, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Powdermill Environmental Research Center, and University of Pittsburgh are all exploring how goats improve biodiversity of vegetation and the bird community. The success of this project will be tracked by monitoring changes to the plant and bird communities.