WORKING TO COMBAT THE INVASIVE PLANT PHRAGMITES AUSTRALIS

This is a call for action on the part of Lake Associations and their respective environmental committees
to look at the threat posed by Phragmites to the viability of our native wetlands.

Phragmites australis is regarded as our most invasive plant in Canada. Its presence has been known in Ontario for some time but most of the effort in curtailment has focused on our more southerly counties. Various citizen groups have developed strategies- often with the support of their respective conservation authorities and municipal councils, to try to control this plant. From their efforts numerous resources and guidelines have been developed and are available for our own use. Most of the above mentioned efforts have focused on the open wetland habitats that surround our Great Lakes.

The wetlands in Eastern Ontario are wide open to an invasion of Phragmites. Here the situation is somewhat different when it comes to control. Any county such as Lanark, Renfrew and Frontenac have interlinked wetland complexes and in many cases a difficult terrain to negotiate. Phragmites- once established within such complexes- is virtually impossible to eradicate.

Phragmites takes less than 5 years to dominate an open wetland. Such a situation is present in Lanark County today.
It is time we become active on this topic. We need a conversation between our organizations.
To start a conversation here are some ideas I would like to have in place by the time spring arrives:

A Co-ordinated Reporting of Phragmites to EDDMapS Ontario www.EDDMapS.org/Ontario
This reporting system is supported by the Ontario Government and managed through OFAH.
This is a good tool which allows the public to report on any invasive species be it animal or plant. At present it is underutilized and the maps for Eastern Ontario regarding Phragmites- particularly for Lanark and Renfrew- fail to illustrate how extensive this plant has become in our counties. The more we report Phragmites sightings the more useful these maps will become.

It must be remembered that EddmapS does not depend on our ability to make a taxonomic identification. This is done through the internal vetting process developed around EddmapS. For Phragmites reports in Ontario this is done by the Invasive Species Awareness Program. This is why a photo record is necessary for every sighting.

The objective for each association would be to systematically cover all accessible roadways within their water shed. We need at least one individual within each organization willing to implement such action. How this is accomplished needs to be discussed.

Begin a Coordinated Search at Roadsides:
It is not difficult to recognize and report dense cells of Phragmites.
It is just as important to seek out and identify the locations of smaller cells.
These cells may be a few plants; and seed heads may not be present. In the early season (June) it will be a healthy size, growing fast with blue-green leaves giving away its presence. These plants are found along the shoulders of our county and township roads. Their presence is due to the mowing of necessary sight lines. So it can be assumed new plants will start to appear “downstream” of mowed large cells. Perhaps this explains why it can occur on one side of a road but not on the other. In any case these are the cells that eventually will be mowed into the next favourable wetland. It is important that these cells be stopped. At this early stage this plant is most vulnerable and accessible for removal.

Reporting to EddmapS
Not everyone has the tools (GPS or camera) to log sightings but other members within an Association can do this for them. Photos logged onto EddmapS should include your name and/or affiliation as these can be seen by others who are involved in similar projects.
While travelling along our waterways a similar approach needs to be taken. In marshy environments phragmites most likely makes its first appearance at forest edge not at water’s edge. Special care is required to check on these places. Terrain vehicles moving within our forested regions have a huge potential in introducing this invasive into off road areas.

Tools for the Job
As lake associations we would encourage participants to make up a kit to be taken along in their daily travels. When a kit is readily at hand there is a greater willingness to take the time to report a sighting.
A notebook to record the date and location (nearest emergency response address or intersection etc).
A location device for GPS and a camera to image location, cell size, seed head & leaf and stem detail.
An app is available from EddmapS that the user can try on smart phones equipped with GPS & camera.

Phragmites Networking
Phragmites gains its success by the development of a network of rhizomes under the ground. Some 80% of its biomass is held unseen in its rhizomes and roots.
Our success in fighting Phragmites may depend on how well networked we are!
No individual or group can make headway against this plant without the support from others.
As a unified voice we can work with our Counties and Townships to help slow this plant down. I know that any effort in this area would be appreciated by them.

Fighting Small Cells
The target for each association will be the removal of small cells. Phragmites seed heads & stalks should be cut to ground and stored in dark plastic garbage bags that are doubled up before they are removed for disposal. Large cells that require many bags need the cooperation of our Public Works Departments to remove material for burial under an overburden. It is a challenge to attempt rhizome removal and is not possible in established cells. However repeated removal of renewed growth reduces the plant’s ability to store its future energy needs.

Spreading the Word
As a coordinated group we should be informing our local residents about this invasive. There are a number of pamphlets that can be used for this. Here in Lanark County our PWD has a pamphlet in preparation for inclusion with property billings.

I am asking Associations receiving this letter whether the above objectives are worth pursuing.

Dave Overholt:
WLPOA White Lake Property Owners Association, WLPP White Lake Preservation Project, MVFN Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
dave_ovh@hotmail.com
613 256 8076 (leave message and I will return your call)

RESOURCES

EDDMapS Ontario Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System
http://www.eddmaps.org/ontario

Invading Species Awareness Program, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters & MNRF
www.invadingspecies.com/invading-species-reporting/
hotline 1-800-563-7711

Ontario Invasive Plant Council: 705 748 6324 ext. 243
http://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/what-we-do/training/

Government of Ontario:
http://www.ontario.ca/invasivespecies

REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED WITH PHRAGMITES
Ontario Phragmites Working Group: http://www.opwg.ca/

Georgian Bay Forever http://georgianbayforever.org/invasive-phragmites/

Phragmites with many seed heads - Ardoch Rd