Success stories: Tales of improving our native biodiversity
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It is called a bog, but Kampoosa Bog is actually a lake basin fen and it is one of just two lake basin fens in the northeastern USA. Kampoosa Bog's open fen area covers 20 acres, but provides habitat for 21 rare species, nineteen of which are listed as rare by the state of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, its native plant species such as water sedge Carex aquatilis, twig-rush (Cladium mariscoides), and cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpum), were in danger of being outcompeted by expanding phragmites stands.
The Invader - Phragmites (Phragmites australis)
Phragmites is native to North America but in many areas of the northeast and upper midwest it spreads very aggressively in wet areas, crowding out other freshwater and tidal plant species. It is possible that the strains native to North America are mixing with more aggressive, European varieties. Dense, single-species stands of reeds up to 15 feet (4.6 m) tall disrupt important habitat for native animal species, and decrease overall biological diversity.
A Success Story
What makes this success story so extraordinary is that the common reed was prevented from spreading within the fen mat by helpful volunteers. Local citizens, high school groups and organizations such as People Making a Difference, and Landmark Volunteers contributed to preventing the spread of three acres of phragmites. For six years, volunteers cut reeds at chest height in the late summer. Phragmites flowers during this time of year and most of the reed's energy is above ground. The cut reeds were bagged and Mr. Dicken Crane, owner of Holiday Farms, contributed by composting the clippings.
Phragmites rhizomes may extend 3 feet (1 m) deep underground and are capable of resprouting. Therefore, a unique method of pesticide application follows the cutting, delivered by certified herbicide applicators armed with squirt bottles. After they were cut the hollow reed "stumps" were individually filled with glyphosate herbicide (Rodeo). The herbicide was absorbed and transported to the rhizome, and the underground part of the plant was killed. While glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, this application method holds the herbicide within the stems, preventing contact with non-target plants.
Yearly monitoring and expedient treatment prevents phragmites from spreading further. Most populations of phragmites are being driven off the fen mat and back into the surrounding swamps. Desirable native species are expanding in number every year and recolonizing areas phragmites once threatened to overwhelm.
The Nature Conservancy of Massachusetts has information about the Kampoosa Bog and will be putting this on the web soon. A review article with more detailed information about phragmites, including a description of its diagnostic characteristics, range, ecology, and methods for its control, is available on the TNC Wildland Invasive Species Team website (http://tncinvasives.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/phraaust.html).
Lowenstein, F. 2000. Personal communication.
This article may be treated as a press release and may be quoted by the media in part or in full. Publication quality versions of images on this page can be obtained from the Wildland Invasive Species Team by sending email to bamrice(at)ucdavis.edu.