Phragmites Australis

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Phragmites australis

Phragmites are a genus of tall perennial grass that is commonly located in wetland areas. The strain of Phragmites australis, which is not native to Wisconsin, is most commonly identified as the common reed, but it also known as the ditch reed or giant reed.[1] Phragmites australis is considered to one of the world's most widespread plants, finding its home in marsh-systems globally.[2] Phragmites are native to the Midwest and much of the United States, however an invasive species of it has largely begun replacing native Phragmites and eliminating other competition.[3] Non-native strains of Phragmites began to emerge in Wisconsin in between the late 1970s and 1980s along the shores of Lake Michigan.[4][5] In these areas, Phragmites have been the cause of considerable ecological strife to Wisconsin wildlife following the decline of the Lake Michigan shoreline.[6]

Historically, European strains of Phragmites were inadvertently transported to the United States, allowing for the spread of the invasive species across the United States.[7] Phragmites have a number of uses and can be used for things like: thatching roofs, feeding livestock, and cellulose production.[8] However, despite their possible utility, they are still a threat to the ecosystems they inhabit in Wisconsin.


Identification

The native and invasive strains of Phragmites in Wisconsin may be quite difficult to discern from one another; however, there are various distinguishing characteristics between each of them that can assist in their identification. Phragmites americanus is the subspecies of Phragmites native to the United States and Wisconsin. It is a subspecies of the Phragmites australis species.

Native

Phargamites americanus is the North American strain that is native to Wisconsin; however, this strain is a subspecies of the Phragmites australis genus. This subspecies usually grows up to six feet in height, which stands in direct contrast to the much taller invasive strain.[9] Aside from height there are other notable physical characteristics that further distinguish Phragmites australis from the subspecies Phragmites americanus. Native Phragmites not only grow differently in height, the native strain of the grows in a much more space out way than the invasive strain; this is in direct contrast to how the invasive strain grows in much denser monocultures.[10] Other than their respective heights, the two strains of Phragmites have different physiognomies that allow them to be further distinguished between one another. Leaf color is also a discernible difference, with the leaves of the native phragmites being a yellowish-green color.[11] However, it is worth noting that despite these differences, both strains have red coloration present on their stems. This can be quite misleading in reference as to which one is being referred to.[12]

Non-Native

The invasive strain of Phragmites australis has a different history than the Wisconsin-native subspecies, as it has not always inhabited the United States. It is predicted that invasive strains of Phragmites australis were introduced to the North American continent from in the late 17th and early 18th century by Europeans through the transportation of ballast material from Europe across the Atlantic.[13].

Seasonal growth of the native and non-native strain is an important distinguishing factor between these Phrgamites. The non-native strain of Phragmites begins to grow earlier in the season; this growth then continues later into fall season than its native counterpart.[14] This is a typical trait between many other invasive species.[15] Other than height and growth pattern, physiologic characteristics that further distinguish them, such as leaf color. Non-native Phragmites, in contrast to the native strain, have leaves which have a blue-grey greenish coloration.[16]

Ecological Effects

Invasive strains of phragmites australis (the common reed) pose numerous threats to Wisconsin ecosystems. These problems largely follow from the way the common reed grows. That is, the common reed grows as a dense stand or monoculture of dead and living stems, which often grow to be higher than fifteen feet. The common reed crowds out native species from their natural habitat.[17] This directly threatens the biodiversity of the ecosystem. This directly connects to the grow of the common reed as it grows in very dense monocultures which can eliminate all other vegetation in the area.[18] The common reed is able to effectively crowd out its competition (other plant life) by growing over the plants that are shorter than it, effectively blocking much sunlight from these plants.[19]

In addition to this, their growth can cause direct alteration of the environment and can result in an increased risk of fire hazards to their surrounding ecosystem.[20] This is most prevalent around shorelines where this abundance can cause serious fire hazards due to the biofuel accumulation.[21] The rapid and high highly concentrated growth of Phragmites is what makes them such a dangerous fire hazard. The dead and decomposing material from the common reed can serve as high concentrations of dry-tinder vegetation. This specifically increases the risk of fires, which are direct threats to both wildlife areas, as well as nearby residential areas.[22]

The abundance of the common reed can alter the distribution, movement, and quality of water in an ecosystem [23] This is the case as the common reed can downsize and eliminate inter-tidal channels and pool habitats; these offer refuge and proper areas for certain species of invertebrates, waterbirds, and fish to acquire sustenance.[24] Thus, the common reed also has malignant ecological impacts due to its failure to provide for the ecosystem it inhabits. That is, the common reed does not provide adequate food or shelter for much of the wildlife in areas in which they grow.[25]

Distribution and Spread

Distribution of Phragmites australis throughout Wisconsin as of 2015. Figure credit: Jason Granberg.

Phragmites are found in most counties of Wisconsin, mainly finding residence around roadways, river banks, lake shorelines, and areas that can tolerate brackish or briny waters.[26] Invasive Phragmites have largely accumulated in eastern Wisconsin along the coastline of Lake Michigan. Additionally, in Wisconsin, they can take root in other disturbed natural site, like exposed lake beds, but are also commonly found in wetland areas like marshes and streams.[27] These invasive strains are purported to have first arrived in these areas in the late 1970’s. However, the various means of dispersal through mowing, land use, vehicular traffic, and construction have allowed for invasive Phragmites to spread both northward and westward.[28] Further distribution of invasive Phragmites have occurred through the spread of pollution, shoreline development, and eutrophication.[29] By 2007, the common reed had began to out-compete much of the native flora along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, dominating the local ecosystem.[30]

Controlling and Monitoring

Non-native Phragmites are quite hard to control because they are highly resistant to most conventional methods of eradication. Despite this difficulty, there are a variety of methods which are used in attempt to reduce, control, or eradicate the number of invasive Phragmites in an ecosystem. It is particularly important to note that both mowing Phragmites and burning them are frequently unsuccessful methods of controlling or eradicating them.[31] Most notably, herbicides are the most profitable method of controlling the growth of invasive strain of Phragmites; however, in noting the use of such herbicides, it is important to abide my state and federal regulations when administering them to local areas.[32] Mowing, pulling, burning, and other mechanical means do not terminate invasive Phragmites, but can be instrumental in halting their growth.[33] Thus, it much more beneficial to rely upon specific herbicides in order to deal Phragmites directly. However, it is not only the means of how invasive Phragmites are dealt with, as when Phragmites are dealt with is also important. This is the case as catching the growth of invasive strains of the common reed while they are in early development is critical to controlling and stopping further spread.[34]

In most cases, the implementation of multiple control methods is necessary to successfully control and/or reduce invasive Phragmites, due to how difficult they are to terminate. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Wisconsin DNR) suggests that the plants should be cut and bundled when being dealt with in backyard or residential areas.[35] Phragmites stems should be sprayed with approved chemicals. Before using chemicals around aquatic areas, the DNR requires one to obtain a permit for the aquatic herbicides necessary to deal with these Phragmites[36]

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative started to control Phragmites on Lake Michigan shoreline. They were granted approximately $806,626 to control about 3,000 acres of non-Native Phragmites.[37] This distance corresponds to about 118 miles along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Following this, there have been multiple campaigns focused on spraying invasive Phragmites with herbicides -- with one of these herbicidal sprayings being an aerial spray via helicopter.[38] This aerial spraying first conducted in 2010, the first of which was implemented by a DNR-hired private contractor.[39] Following this, for the areas that were not suitable for aerial spraying, the Wisconsin DNR implemented herbicidal, ground sprayings that were conducted in 2012 and 2013 consecutively.[40]

References

  1. "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources." Phragmites. October 31, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2017. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/invasives/fact/phragmites.html.
  2. Jil Swearingen and Kristin Saltonstall. “Phragmites Field Guide: Distinguishing Native and Exotic Forms of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) in the United States.” May 19, 2010. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. https://www.invasive.org/publications/PHRAGFIELDGUIDE.pdf.
  3. Jil Swearingen and Kristin Saltonstall. “Phragmites Field Guide: Distinguishing Native and Exotic Forms of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) in the United States.” May 19, 2010. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. https://www.invasive.org/publications/PHRAGFIELDGUIDE.pdf.
  4. "Phragmites in Wisconsin: Location, Location, Location." Live from the Lakes A Wisconsin Lakes Blog. April 8, 2015. Accessed December 10, 2015. http://lakes-l.blogs.govdelivery.com/2015/04/phragmites-in-wisconsin-location-location-location/.
  5. Greg Cleerman. “Phragmites Control Along Lake Michigan Shoreline.” Wisconsin Land+Water.https://wisconsinlandwater.org/programs/cc-stories-detail/phargamites-control-along-lake-michigan-shoreline
  6. Greg Cleerman. “Phragmites Control Along Lake Michigan Shoreline.” Wisconsin Land+Water.https://wisconsinlandwater.org/programs/cc-stories-detail/phargamites-control-along-lake-michigan-shoreline
  7. Jil Swearingen and Kristin Saltonstall. “Phragmites Field Guide: Distinguishing Native and Exotic Forms of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) in the United States.” May 19, 2010. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. https://www.invasive.org/publications/PHRAGFIELDGUIDE.pdf
  8. Jil Swearingen and Kristin Saltonstall. “Phragmites Field Guide: Distinguishing Native and Exotic Forms of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) in the United States.” May 19, 2010. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. https://www.invasive.org/publications/PHRAGFIELDGUIDE.pdf
  9. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  10. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  11. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  12. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  13. Jil Swearingen and Kristin Saltonstall. “Phragmites Field Guide: Distinguishing Native and Exotic Forms of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) in the United States.” May 19, 2010. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. https://www.invasive.org/publications/PHRAGFIELDGUIDE.pdf
  14. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  15. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  16. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  17. “Species Profile: Common Reed.” National Invasive Specie Information Center. November 23, 2017. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatics/commonreed.shtml#cit
  18. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  19. “BioBullies -- The Common Reed: Phragmites australis.” Natural Biodiversity. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. http://www.naturalbiodiversity.org/biobullies/downloads/Common%20Reed.pdf
  20. “BioBullies -- The Common Reed: Phragmites australis.” Natural Biodiversity. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. http://www.naturalbiodiversity.org/biobullies/downloads/Common%20Reed.pdf
  21. "Phragmites in Wisconsin: Location, Location, Location." Live from the Lakes A Wisconsin Lakes Blog. April 8, 2015. Accessed December 10, 2015. http://lakes-l.blogs.govdelivery.com/2015/04/phragmites-in-wisconsin-location-location-location/.
  22. “Phragmites: Questions and Answers.” United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Date Accessed November 29, 2017. https://www.fws.gov/GOMCP/pdfs/phragmitesQA_factsheet.pdf
  23. "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources." Phragmites. October 31, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2017. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/invasives/fact/phragmites.html.
  24. “Phragmites: Questions and Answers.” United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Date Accessed November 29, 2017. https://www.fws.gov/GOMCP/pdfs/phragmitesQA_factsheet.pdf
  25. “Phragmites: Questions and Answers.” United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Date Accessed November 29, 2017. https://www.fws.gov/GOMCP/pdfs/phragmitesQA_factsheet.pdf
  26. "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources." Phragmites. October 31, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2017. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/invasives/fact/phragmites.html.
  27. Vijai Pandian and Mark Renz.“Invasive Phragmites.” Wisconsin Horticulture. December 1st, 2011. Date Accessed December 5th, 201&. https://hort.uwex.edu/articles/invasive-phragmites/
  28. "Phragmites in Wisconsin: Location, Location, Location." Live from the Lakes A Wisconsin Lakes Blog. April 8, 2015. Accessed December 10, 2015. http://lakes-l.blogs.govdelivery.com/2015/04/phragmites-in-wisconsin-location-location-location/.
  29. “Phragmites: Questions and Answers.” United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Date Accessed November 29, 2017. https://www.fws.gov/GOMCP/pdfs/phragmitesQA_factsheet.pdf
  30. Greg Cleerman. “Phragmites Control Along Lake Michigan Shoreline.” Wisconsin Land+Water.https://wisconsinlandwater.org/programs/cc-stories-detail/phargamites-control-along-lake-michigan-shoreline
  31. “Phragmites: Questions and Answers.” United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Date Accessed November 29, 2017.https://www.fws.gov/GOMCP/pdfs/phragmitesQA_factsheet.pdf
  32. “BioBullies -- The Common Reed: Phragmites australis.” Natural Biodiversity. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. http://www.naturalbiodiversity.org/biobullies/downloads/Common%20Reed.pdf
  33. “BioBullies -- The Common Reed: Phragmites australis.” Natural Biodiversity. Date Accessed November 28, 2017. http://www.naturalbiodiversity.org/biobullies/downloads/Common%20Reed.pdf
  34. "Phragmites-Native or Not?" Accessed November 28, 2017. http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/phragmites/phragmites-native-non-native.pdf.
  35. Vijai Pandian and Mark Renz.“Invasive Phragmites.” Wisconsin Horticulture. December 1st, 2011. Date Accessed December 5th, 201&. https://hort.uwex.edu/articles/invasive-phragmites/
  36. Vijai Pandian and Mark Renz.“Invasive Phragmites.” Wisconsin Horticulture. December 1st, 2011. Date Accessed December 5th, 201&. https://hort.uwex.edu/articles/invasive-phragmites/
  37. Greg Cleerman. “Phragmites Control Along Lake Michigan Shoreline.” Wisconsin Land+Water.https://wisconsinlandwater.org/programs/cc-stories-detail/phargamites-control-along-lake-michigan-shoreline
  38. Greg Cleerman. “Phragmites Control Along Lake Michigan Shoreline.” Wisconsin Land+Water.https://wisconsinlandwater.org/programs/cc-stories-detail/phargamites-control-along-lake-michigan-shoreline
  39. Greg Cleerman. “Phragmites Control Along Lake Michigan Shoreline.” Wisconsin Land+Water.https://wisconsinlandwater.org/programs/cc-stories-detail/phargamites-control-along-lake-michigan-shoreline
  40. Greg Cleerman. “Phragmites Control Along Lake Michigan Shoreline.” Wisconsin Land+Water.https://wisconsinlandwater.org/programs/cc-stories-detail/phargamites-control-along-lake-michigan-shoreline

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