Goats, Fire, and Woodlands

Research Issue

Baby goats are used for targeted browsing.

Land managers, including those within the National Forest System, are increasingly interested in the restoration and maintenance of oak and pine woodlands. In the Central Hardwoods region, management objectives commonly prescribe lower levels of stocking, minimal mid-stories, and diverse ground floras. However, maintaining open under-stories in these communities requires frequent disturbance to reduce occupancy from woody stems and promote ground flora diversity and abundance.

For land managers, the level of disturbance could be labor-intensive; for goats, it’s lunch. Researchers are working with foresters on the Mark Twain National Forest to test and monitor the effects of targeted browsing and prescribed fire as tools in achieving restoration objectives at two sites representing oak and pine woodlands in the Ozarks.

Our Research

With colleagues at the Mark Twain National Forest and the University of Missouri, Northern Research Station scientists are determining the effects of prescriptive grazing and fire on woodland management. Study sites include an 85-acre parcel near Rolla, MO, characterized by white oak, post oak, black oak, and black hickory, where the study includes six treatments (control, dormant bud browse & fall browse, spring browse, spring burn, spring browse & spring burn, fall browse) and three replications in the study area.

In August of 2019, researchers and managers from the Mark Twain National Forest began a second project on a 50-acre pine stand within the Cane Ridge Unit near Poplar Bluff, MO, where three paired plots will be permanently established to monitor changes in vegetation structure and composition with targeted browsing and fire.

Expected Outcomes

This research will answer critical questions for Mark Twain National Forest managers by 1) determining the effect of targeted browsing and browsing seasonality on forest structure, composition, including ground flora, 2) comparing seasonality of targeted browsing to prescribed burning, and 3) determining the combined effects of targeted browsing and burning for woodland management.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

Research Partners

  • Last modified: December 13, 2019