Innovation in Phragmites control

Organizations in the Long Point area have adopted an integrated approach to Phragmites management involving a wide range of methods, each one required to deal with special circumstances, in an effort to eradicate Phragmites and protect our wetlands.

“An aquatic herbicide is used in the Long Point region under a special permission from Health Canada; this unique tool is not available anywhere else in Canada. Long Point was chosen to pilot this method due to the imminent impacts to wildlife, in particular Species at Risk. An urgent response was required, and aquatic herbicide were chosen because it is the most effective method of control for large scale applications,” says Eric Cleland of NCC.

Additional measures, such as rolling, cutting, burning or even a combination of these are often necessary to fully eradicate this aggressive species as part of an integrated pest management program (IPM).

Cleland notes that they’re always on the lookout for new control methods. “It’s always important. New methods can help reduce the impacts of control, show improved results for people and the environment, and reduce management costs.”

Tall, dense stands of invasive Phragmites block native vegetation from growing and reduce biodiversity

Biocontrol is not necessarily a new method, but it’s one that’s gaining traction and being investigated for use in the area. It involves introducing a natural enemy of an invasive species to re-establish a natural balance.

“One of the best examples of a successful biocontrol in Ontario is for Purple Loosestrife, where the release of European leaf-eating beetles achieved wide-scale control,” explains Cleland. “The beetles are natural enemies of purple loosestrife, and they feed primarily on the plant. This biological control of purple loosestrife can reduce populations by up to 90 per cent and allow native plants to re-establish.”

Building on over 20 years of research in the area, two moth species which are natural predators of invasive Phragmites have been found to be promising biocontrol agents. They pose a minimal risk to native species and if successful could offer an additional tool to control Phragmites as part of an IPM.

While no single method can rid our wetlands of invasive Phragmites, it’s exciting to see the ongoing research and work being done by dedicated organizations to help mitigate its impact.

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