Removing invasive plants and restoring native ones is key to lowering the risk of wildfire in Hawaii, but what might get left out of the conversation is the role of feral goats. Left to their own devices, these voracious animals eat native plants and strip bark from native trees, leave “large swaths of land open for the spread of invasive fire-adapted species, creating a cycle of ever-increasing fires and opportunities for invasive species.”
So writes Dan Rubinoff and coauthor Sam O. Gon III in a recent edition of Science magazine. Dan, of the Dept. of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, argues that to truly achieve fire suppression goals in Hawaiʻi, we must better control the feral goat population. On the island of Kahoʻolawe, for example, the ongoing restoration of native vegetation could not succeed without first eradicating the goats.
“The overabundance of feral goats contributes to the destruction of native ecosystems, prevents restoration, and enables invasive species which promote catastrophic fires,” he says.
Read the full article, “The role of feral goats in Maui fires,” in Science.