Taking on phragmites
Phragmites (or European common reed) is a non-native, invasive plant from Eurasia. It is quickly spreading throughout North America. Found mostly in wetlands, this towering plant takes over wetlands and shores. It outcompetes native wetland plants, degrades wildlife habitat and can block shoreline views and access.
In 2017, NCC hired its first-ever program director for invasive species in Ontario. This positioned NCC to begin tackling the spread of invasive phragmites.
In a joint initiative with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, NCC has been fighting this alien invader in the wetlands of Lake Erie in Long Point, Turkey Point and Lower Big Creek in Norfolk County. These areas are important for waterfowl and provide habitat for many species at risk. Control of this aggressive plant involves a combination of tools including herbicides, cutting, burning and repeat treatments of any remaining plants.
Control efforts also involve extensive monitoring of plant, animal and insect populations, as well as water quality. This monitoring has confirmed that the environment and water supply remain safe.
Last year phragmites was controlled on more than 1,230 acres (500 hectares). This was a monumental task, with equipment challenges, tough working conditions and significantly more phragmites to treat than anticipated. But there is good news. Early surveys already show marked improvement, with native plants returning and dramatically less phragmites.
In 2018–2019, NCC will continue battling phragmites — not just in the Lake Erie area but in the Minesing Wetlands near Barrie, Ontario, and Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron.