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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘goats’

Want to Save Salt Marshes? Send in the Goats

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 30, 2014

(Photo: Derek Davis/Getty Images)

(Photo: Derek Davis/Getty Images)

As I write this, I am sitting on my porch in Connecticut looking out at a coastal salt marsh, a habitat that seems to be increasingly under threat everywhere, in part because of a tall grass called Phragmites australis.  When I first moved here, the marsh was a wall of phragmites, in a dense stand 10-feet high, from one side to the other.  Hardly any wildlife seemed to live there, except redwing blackbirds.  The roots, or rhizomes, of the phragmites grew one on top of the other, crowding out native plants and threatening to turn the marsh into dry land.

When a study demonstrated that out-of-control phragmites are an invasive variety introduced in the nineteenth century from Europe, I went to work, deploying a one-man version of the anti-phragmites protocol now used by many state environmental protection agencies. Wearing a backpack sprayer, I cut tunnels through the dense foliage, then worked my way back out, spraying an herbicide called Rodeo, an aquatic variety of Roundup, on the leaves of the phragmites.  I wasn’t comfortable with the idea (and in neighboring New York the practice is illegal).  But it seemed to work.  The phragmites started to die back, and I saw a lot more wildlife, from otters to glossy ibis.

Now, though, a new study proposes a better way get the same results with less work, lower cost, and fewer environmental complications:

Send in the goats.

Duke University ecologist Brian Silliman got the idea while doing research on marshes in Europe.  He noticed that the same variety of phragmites turned up there mainly in drainage ditches and at construction sites.  But the marshes remained

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