The 2019 Emergency Use Registration (EUR) Phragmites control program, a partnership between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in the Long Point region was a resounding success! Led by NCC, contractors conducted follow-up surveys and re-treatment across the project area and began an exciting new inland expansion in to the Big Creek watershed. This was not the only new treatment in 2019; the Canadian Wildlife Service joined the project team formally this year and undertook some pilot treatment areas at the Big Creek and Long Point National Wildlife Areas.
The support for this program continues to grow as the benefits of this landscape-scale wetland restoration program are becoming apparent. Local residents and biologists are noting the return of diverse habitats and wildlife along with the vistas that make the Long Point region a truly memorable and cherished place (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Long Point Crown Marsh, June 2019
We know from experience that most often Phragmites is not fully controlled in one treatment season. The primary focus for follow-up work in 2019 was to search through areas treated with herbicide in the previous seasons and target any Phragmites regrowth that may have returned in these areas. This work was accomplished through the use of specialized amphibious wetland vehicles called Marsh Masters and a jon boat. There was a noticeable reduction in regrowth in 2019, confirming that treatments in previous years have been successful. Further aiding this work is the record-high Lake Erie water levels which are helping to drown out stubborn Phragmites populations.
New treatment areas in 2019
Phragmites must be managed at a landscape scale to truly achieve success. With this in mind, the LPPAA expanded both the coastal wetland program and initiated work with private landowners in Norfolk County’s largest watershed, Big Creek.
The largest coastal wetland owner in the region, the Canada Wildlife Service, piloted treatment at three National Wildlife Area sites in 2019. These sites totalled 10 ha and are being assessed to inform a potential larger program on these properties in 2020.
The LPPAA established a Big Creek Phragmites Control subcommittee with key partners in early 2019 to design and implement a control services program for private landowners. With funding support from the Government of Canada, the subcommittee prepared an Implementation Plan for the watershed that divides the watershed in to eight phases for control and identifies the steps needed for successful engagement and delivery. The LPPAA is pleased to report that the program was widely accepted in the initial Phase 1 area and significant interest was received from landowners in other phases for future years.
In an effort to eliminate seed sources across the county, the Ministry of Transportation and Norfolk County joined in control efforts this year. Road allowances were treated along provincial highways 24 & 6 and all County roads. While this is not the first year for treating County road allowances, it is the first time they have partnered with NCC to access the ability to treat wet ditches via the EUR program. Municipal drains found within the Phase 1 area of Big Creek were also treated as part of the program extension.
Supported in part by Wildlife Habitat Canada and Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program, the “cut-to-drown” method was trialled on Phragmites populations at the Port Rowan harbour. Cut-to-drown is a method in which the plants cut below the water line close to the lake bed. Once cut, Phragmites no longer has the ability to transport oxygen to the roots system effectively “drowning” the plant. This work was conducted in partnership with the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre using an amphibious vehicle called a Truxor (Figure 2). The cut-to-drown method was necessary here due to proximity to the Port Rowan water intake.
Figure 2: Image of Truxors cutting and removing Phragmites neighboring the Port Rowan harbour.
Integrated Pest Management Program
Herbicide treatment is one step of an integrated pest management program that is recommended to achieve control and restore ecosystem function. Phragmites can remain standing after herbicide treatment for a number of years, so removing this standing ‘dead biomass’ is critical to support the resurgence of native species and to more easily see any regrowth the following year. Typical next steps following herbicide treatment is to cut or roll the stalks down and where possible, prescribed burn them during the winter months (Figure 3).
LPPAA will also be extending follow-up cutting and rolling services to private landowners where Phragmites control occurred as part of the Big Creek Phragmites Control program. The service of rolling or cutting will be provided free of charge. In most cases this work will occur using handheld cutters.
Figure 3: Prescribed burn of coastal marsh in winter 2018
The monitoring program for 2019 followed similar protocols to those used since 2016, with MNRF partnering with the University of Waterloo and other partners to monitor and analyze the following:
1. Efficacy of herbicides
2. Effects of control activity on emergent coastal marsh vegetation
3. Effects of control activity on fish and fish habitat
4. Fate of glyphosate
MNRF once again undertook rigorous Drinking Water Quality sampling at locations in the Long Point Crown Marsh, Turkey Point and residences near the outlet of Big Creek. This effort was to ensure no impact to drinking water sources occur as a result of Phragmites control with herbicides. Levels at all sample locations remained far below regulated standards.
The Long Point Phragmites Action Alliance would like to thank all of the contributors who helped make the 2019 Phragmites season such a resounding success. This project was undertaken with the financial support of:
This work was also supported by several private donors, foundations, and incredible on-the-ground efforts of volunteers in the local community. Thanks again, we greatly appreciate your support!
Live in the lower Big Creek area? Have you seen this plant?
The Big Creek Watershed Subcommittee is currently planning to expand control work to phases 2 & 3 in 2020, while continuing control and retreatment efforts in phase 1. If you, or someone you know owns property in phase 1, 2, or 3, please email the BCWS at email@example.com. The BCWS is currently trying to reach every landowner in the phase 2-3 area in 2019. If you, or someone you know owns property in these areas, please email the BCWS at firstname.lastname@example.org.