Niagara Parks goes green with goats to fight phragmites at Gonder’s Flats

You should hear the sound made by the new weed whackers being used at Gonder’s Flats.

As part of a new week-long pilot project, Niagara Parks’ Environmental Stewardship team has launched the Green Grazers Initiative, which will use goats to target the removal of phragmites, an invasive species.

Credit: Niagara Parks

Phragmites, also known as the European common reed, are an invasive plant that damages wetlands and beaches.

According to the Ontario Invading Species Awareness Program, “Invasive phragmites is an aggressive plant that spreads quickly and out-competes native species for water and nutrients. It releases toxins from its roots into the soil to hinder the growth of and kill surrounding plants. While it prefers areas of standing water, its roots can grow to extreme lengths, allowing it to survive in relatively dry areas.”

The Green Grazers initiative is looking at the use of goats as a sustainable, low-impact, chemical-free solution for invasive species management.

Traditionally, options to remove phragmites include digging them out or applying pesticides or herbicides, solutions which require a lot of human labour that disturb the soil, making regrowth more prone to weeds.

Beginning this week, a local farmer has been bringing a herd of goats to graze daily at the recently restored wetlands at Gonder’s Flats.

Goats naturally graze on various plants, including invasives, which helps to promote soil health and maintain biodiversity.

To ensure their safety, the goats are provided with water and shade on-site while being monitored.

It is not the first time goats have been used in this way in Niagara. Goats have helped at Ontario Power Generation sites in Niagara Falls for at least three different seasons.

Gonder’s Flats is a natural area along the Niagara Parkway near Townline Road.

Niagara Parks has undertaken an extensive wetland and restoration project at the flats that began in 2014, made possible with the help of Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Land Care Niagara, the Niagara Community Foundation and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance.

So far, progress includes the removal of eroded asphalt, completion of an archaeological assessment, shoreline restoration, and trail upgrades to improve public access, and the reintroduction of native plant species.

They also completed the excavation of a 4-acre pond and berms after removing dead ash trees and invasive species. Following the removals, they planted native vegetation, including aquatic plants, trees, grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs.

Allowed to naturalize gradually over time, the wetland will improve water quality, support local biodiversity, protect species at risk, prevent erosion and flooding, and create recreational opportunities for the community.

While Gonder’s Flats is currently open to the public, visitors are advised not to approach the goats due to their shy and sensitive nature.

Stay Informed

Events, offers, contests, and breaking news, all delivered straight to your inbox.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *