Phragmites is a genus of four species of large perennial reed grasses found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. But there’s also the world we have right now,” he says. Connect with Nature: Sign up for the “Conservation Talk” webinar series. americanus. When Phragmites sheds its lower leaves, or dies, it creates a thick layer of wrack that keeps native plants from germinating. All rights reserved. on: function (event, callback) { And it’s choking out life in the wetland. Why? To contact an expert in your area, visit https://extension.msu.edu/experts, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). Click Contact to get in touch with us. Although scattered clumps of phragmites provides cover for small mammals and birds, it usually forms large, dense stands that provide little value for wildlife. This segment is part of the The State Of Science spotlight. Saltonstall, K. 2002. Invasive Phragmites is an aggressive plant that spreads quickly and out-competes native species for water and nutrients. Don’t assume that the whole family can get a flu vaccine at the local pharmacy. She’s been studying salt marshes for Mass Audubon for more than two decades. Non-native Phragmitescan alter habitats by changing marsh hydrology; decreasing salinity in brackish wetlands; changing local topography; increasi… John Dankosky is a contributing editor with Science Friday, and occasional guest host. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Southern Beaver dam on Gully Rd. The flowers grow as dense branched clusters on the end of each stem that are open and feathery at maturity. The 4-H Name and Emblem have special protections from Congress, protected by code 18 USC 707. In fact, the presence of … New York, NY 10004. Monocultures decrease the … But those tall reed-like plants that we think of as quintessentially New England, and a big part of the marsh ecosystem, are actually an invasive species called phragmites. Where possible, flooding for extensive periods during the growing season can also be an effective method of control. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recommends controlling the invasive Phragmites by using an integrated pest management approach which includes an initial herbicide treatment followed by mechanical removal (e.g., cutting, mowing) and annual maintenance. For terms of use and more information, visit our policies pages at http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/policies/. JOHN DANKOSKY: Yeah, local science stories of national significance– a New England salt marsh can certainly seem like a bucolic spot with those bushy reeds dotting the landscape. Giblin says the tradeoffs are complicated. JOHN DANKOSKY: And now it’s time to check in on the state of science. The plant, which typically grows about 13 feet high, looms over native marsh plants, blocking out their sunlight. } “There’s fairly universal agreement that we should try to reduce and prevent invasions as much as we can. Biodiversity is still the most important thing for marshes. For example, the rapid growth and slow decomposition of above-ground biomass leads to large accumulations of organic material over several growing seasons. In America, not all phragmites are a problem. Here with that story now is Barbara Moran, environmental editor at WBUR in Boston. Phragmites forms massive monocultures in otherwise biologically diverse natural wetlands. The European species of phragmites is extremely invasive. “In the mid-Atlantic where they are losing a lot of the marshes really quickly, there [are] discussions about whether or not they should be treating frag because it is one of the few plants that is keeping up with sea level rise,” says Nancy Pau, a biologist at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island. MNFI says that early recognition is critical because the plant stores energy underground in its extensive network of rhizomes; the older it is, the harder it is to control. BARBARA MORAN: Yeah, this is really interesting. And the phragmites is a really tough invader that can come and crowd out the native marsh species. “It’s very resilient,” says Buchsbaum. Why are people trying to get rid of them? But where the invader has already won, or has overtaken a mudflat or brownfield, some think it may best be left alone. } Invades moist habitats including lakeshores, river banks and roadways. Need to learn more about Phragmites management? “We’re living in a high CO2 world,” says Ian Davidson, lead author on the Smithsonian study. }); It’s funny because it’s actually kind of a pretty plant. So I should say it’s also phragmites is really, really hard to kill. As the chapter explains, despite the fact that they have been labeled as a weed in the past, Phragmites are not just deadweights taking up space in the salt marsh; moreover, they aren’t “ecologically useless” as they can still serve as proper food for certain organisms and contribute to the creation of a habitat. Phragmites forms incredibly dense stands and can grow to a height of 15 feet. Phragmites spreads by seed and by long rhizomes. Salt marsh sparrows avoid them. I know. It competes for things like our golden rod, which is important food for migrating monarch butterflies. Recognizing the non-native form of Phragmites early in its invasion increases the opportunity for successful eradication dramatically. Hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders all enjoy well-maintained trails, and invasive plants can grow over trails to the point that the path cannot be followed or can be difficult to navigate. So it takes a lot of resources to try and kill it. The plant, which typically grows about 13 feet high, looms over native marsh plants, blocking out their sunlight. I talked to Liz Duff when I was researching this story. His study is one of the more recent to look at the differences in carbon storage between native and invasive coastal species. Why is Phragmites a problem? LIZ DUFF: When there’s less phragmites, it’s easier, say, for migrating birds to find a place to land. I know people would hate hearing me say that. Invasive non-native Phragmites australis is a perennial wetland plant that has quickly spread through Michigan marshes and wetland areas, robbing the fish, plants and wildlife of nutrients and space; blocking access to the water for swimming, fishing and other recreation endeavors; spoiling shoreline … A study came out of the Smithsonian last fall by a scientist named Ian Davidson. And she really laid out the case for why we should be getting rid of phragmites. View a summary of techniques below. JOHN DANKOSKY: So what does it do? The presence of Phragmites, therefore, cannot only impact the quality of our environment but also the quality of our life style, which in these cases are inextricably linked. MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer, committed to achieving excellence through a diverse workforce and inclusive culture that encourages all people to reach their full potential. A major problem with Phragmites is it will continue to expand throughout the marsh until the marsh is a monoculture of Phragmites. “So it’s become pretty interesting to understand how much carbon is stored in the biosphere, and in particular types of habitats.”. Phragmites gives off methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In the U.S. phragmites is most abundant along the Atlantic Coast though it is present throughout the entire country and southern Canada. There’s also this other evidence that phragmites, just because it’s so bulky, there’s such biomass, that it can buffer these marshes against sea level rise. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit https://extension.msu.edu/newsletters. Why is Phragmites a problem? But Phragmites may offer another advantage in the face of climate change—since it builds up so much, it can buffer marshes against sea level rise and storm surges. After applying Rodeo herbicide you should start to see results within 2 to 4 days and within 7 to 10 days your Phragmites problem should disappear. I appreciate it. These ecotourism activities, support local economies across the Great Lakes basin, providing jobs for local citizens and tax base to support important government services on which many people rely. Invasive plants can also increase the risk of flooding and soil erosion leading to cloudy water, lower water quality, and silted spawning beds. We’re living in this really high CO2. Phragmites are allelopathic, which means that they release toxins from their roots that impede the growth of other plants. A recent study from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center found that the very traits that make Phragmites a tough invader—larger plants, deeper roots, higher density—enable it to store more carbon in marshy peat. BARBARA MORAN: Yeah, so it’s really interesting. Phragmites is usually an indicator of a wetland ecosystem that is out of balance. So these are a couple sort of maybe pluses for this invasive species that people are starting to sort of look at this plant a little differently. And the questions have been arising for the past couple of years about whether phragmites might– might actually provide some useful, you know, what they call ecosystem services, especially with growing concerns about climate change. Phragmites is very aggresive and has replaced much of the native reed. window.mc4wp.listeners.push({ Barbara, thanks so much for joining us. Phragmites australis subsp. Fidelity to the original aired/published audio or video file might vary, and text might be updated or amended in the future. And it may mean opening our minds to some of our old enemies. It now threatens Florida. It is able to adjust its growing based on environmental conditions and can even survive stagnant, oxygen poor or salty conditions. Our team has over 10 years of experience guiding invasive Phragmites control projects throughout Ontario. Why is it a problem? Michigan State University Extension programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status. JOHN DANKOSKY: So this is why people have been trying to get rid of them for years. This can lead to greater rates of sediments deposition which can increase the elevation of invaded marshes and affect drainage, leading invaded marshes to slowly become drier, in turn, causing further changes in the remn… A major problem with phragmites is that it will continue to expand throughout the wetland. Issued in furtherance of MSU Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 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