News

2019 Phragmites Control Update

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

Follow-up control

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

Monitoring

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.

Acknowledgements

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 bigcreekphrag@gmail.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 bigcreekphrag@gmail.com.

2019 Phragmites Control is Complete

The LPPAA and it’s members are excited to announce that all Phragmites control plans for 2019 have been completed. Follow up work including cutting, rolling, or burning will take place where required in the coming months.

LPPAA would like to extend a large thank you to all of the private landowners that enrolled in the program this year. Expanding control of Phragmites across the landscape with your assistance is critical to our project’s success.

Long Point Crown Marsh Phragmites Control Program – Update Sept 5, 2019

Long Point Phragmites Control Program

PROJECT UPDATE:

Herbicide application for the control of Phragmites was initiated on September 5th in the Long Point Crown Marsh.

Updates on the implementation of the project will be posted on this website.

2019 Project Summary

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (`the ministry`) has recognized invasive Phragmites australis as a significant threat to biodiversity and Species at Risk at Long Point coastal marshes. Using currently available management tools, the ministry has been working with several partners to eradicate invasive Phragmites from these locations.

The ministry is undertaking the fourth year of an Emergency Use Registration of herbicide to treat Phragmites in aquatic environments.  Approval was obtained from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, as well as permits and authorizations from Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks  and Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the treatment of Phragmites in the Long Point Region and Rondeau Provincial Park.  Treatment in the Long Point Region will use a variety of ground application equipment.  Application was approved for August 15 to October 31st, 2019.

The implementation of this pilot project at Rondeau and Long Point is based on the presence of significant natural values and the observed exponential growth of Phragmites in these coastal marshes. The attachments below provide a summary of the 2019 plans for implementation and monitoring.

Big Creek Phragmites Control Services Program

The Long Point Phragmites Action Alliance (LPPAA) is calling on landowners in the lower Big Creek watershed for help with the Long Point Phragmites control program. Phragmites is an aggressive invasive plant that can harm local biodiversity and impact farm crops and operations by clogging drains and blocking access to irrigation ponds. Until now, the control work has been focused in the marshes at Long Point and Turkey Point to restore biodiversity to these globally significant ecosystems.

Moving control from the shoreline up the Big Creek watershed is an important and natural next step to protect the substantial investments already made throughout the coastal wetlands.

With support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Long Point Phragmites Action Alliance developed Ontario’s first watershed-wide Phragmites control strategy. A 15-member Big Creek Watershed Subcommittee (BCWS) was established and includes several Norfolk County departments, the Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Norfolk Federation of Agriculture, Norfolk Woodlot Owners Association, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada as well as other stakeholders that are key to the operational delivery of a watershed-based control program.

If you have Phragmites on your property and you live in the lower Big Creek area, please contact the BCWS. This is your chance to receive financial and exterminator assistance to remove Phragmites from your property for good!  We need every landowner to participate so no Phragmites is left behind. Just one seed head can produce up to 10,000 viable seeds that are carried on the wind to new locations.

Please contact the Long Point Phragmites Action Alliance, Big Creek Watershed Subcommittee at bigcreekphrag@gmail.com.

Figure 4.The BCWS is currently trying to reach every landowner in the Phase 1 area before July 2019 (Figure 1). If you, or someone you know owns property in Phase 1, please email the BCWS at bigcreekphrag@gmail.com.

2018 update

The 2018 invasive Phragmites control program in the Long Point region was another resounding success! The Nature Conservancy of Canada led the control work in the coastal wetlands again this year; completing over 500 hectares (ha) of surveys and re-treatment of the 2017 project area. A few new wetlands were treated in the Turkey Point and Lower Big Creek regions; meaning nearly all private and provincial lands in the region have been tackled!

The support for this program continues to grow as the benefits of this landscape-scale Phragmites control program are becoming apparent; a return of native vegetation, species at risk and other wildlife, and the beautiful lake vistas that make the Long Point region a truly memorable and cherished place (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Aerial photo of the Long Point coastal marshes taken in July 2018 shows the resurgence of native vegetation only 1.5 years after treatments.

Follow-up control

We know from experience that most often Phragmites is not fully controlled in one treatment season. The primary focus for follow-up work in 2018 was to search through areas treated with herbicide in the previous two seasons and target any Phragmites regrowth that may have returned in these areas. This work was primarily accomplished through the use of NCC’s MarshMaster and a contracted MarshMaster owned by Giles Restoration Services Inc. While the work was slow and tedious to complete, the good news is that most areas showed very little Phragmites re-growth and in turn the beginnings of a resurging native vegetation community again.

New treatment areas in 2018

Forwarding the landscape-scale approach is a high priority, therefore several new sites were added to the program in 2018 to close gaps between previously treated locations. The remaining private wetlands in lower Big Creek and the last coastal wetland in the Turkey Point complex received treatment this year. Aerial work using a helicopter was a small portion of these new treatment areas in 2018, accounting for about 10 ha in lower Big Creek and 17 ha at Long Point. The remaining new areas in Turkey Point, including Ordnance Beach, were treated from the ground using MarshMasters.

In total, since the beginning of this project in 2016, a total of 1111 ha of Phragmites has been managed in the Long Point region using best management practices (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Estimated Phragmites extent shows 1111 ha of treated Phragmites (red), and 712 ha of untreated Phragmites (yellow) in the Long Point and Turkey Point coastal marshes.

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-dead, for a number of years, so removing this ‘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 treatments for Phragmites is to cut or roll and where possible, prescribed burn the dead biomass during the winter months. This work was completed in the coastal wetlands at lower Big Creek, Turkey Point and Long Point using Marshmasters and Sherps (similar to a MarshMaster but with soft rubber tires and heat for winter work!) (Figure 3).

The MarshMaster rolling Phragmites to the ground to prepare for a prescribed burn.

Monitoring

The monitoring program for 2018 followed similar protocols to the 2017 program, 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

Plus, the 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 did not come close to the Ontario Drinking Water Standard at any point during the project.

Big Creek Phragmites Control Services Program

Also in 2018, Environment and Climate Change Canada provided financial support to the Long Point Phragmites Action Alliance to develop Ontario’s first watershed-wide Phragmites control strategy. A 15-member Big Creek Watershed Subcommittee (BCWS) was established and includes several Norfolk County departments, the Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Norfolk Federation of Agriculture, Norfolk Woodlot Owners Association, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada as well as other stakeholders that are key to the operational delivery of a watershed-based control program.

Moving control from the shoreline up the Big Creek watershed is an important and natural next step to protect the substantial investments already made throughout the coastal wetlands.

The strategy proposes a phased-approach and has identified eight potential phases over eight years to cover the 750 sq. km watershed. The plan is to start in lower Big Creek area (Phase 1) in 2019 and move further inland in subsequent years. Phragmites control in the watershed will use a similar integrated pest management program that is used along the shoreline with initial treatments of herbicide where possible and follow-up treatments as needed.

The BCWS is currently trying to reach every landowner in the phase 1 area in 2019 (Figure 1). If you, or someone you know owns property in phase 1, please email the BCWS at bigcreekphrag@gmail.com.

Live in the lower Big Creek area? Have you seen this plant?

Figure 4. The BCWS is currently trying to reach every landowner in the phase 1 area in 2019 (Figure 1). If you, or someone you know owns property in phase 1, please email the BCWS at bigcreekphrag@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Update

2017 Long Point Phragmites Pilot Project Update

The initial phase of the Long Point Phragmites Pilot Project has wrapped up for the 2017 season. This year’s program saw an expansion in geography locally, including treatment in coastal wetlands in Long Point, Turkey Point and the lower Big Creek watershed. Approval was received for up to 1000 hectares of treatment however with limited time to complete this work within the appropriate biological windows, achieving this total was not possible. GIS staff are working on the final treatment maps and hope these will ready for posting on the LPPAA website soon. NCC and MNRF partnered again this year to deliver the program, with NCC leading the private land involvement and MNRF focusing on Crown lands. Fortunately, ideal weather conditions prevailed for the project timeline allowing for long days and significant accomplishments. A big thanks to the contractors who put in incredible amounts of overtime to make the project successful. Lastly, some new technology was employed to improve tracking of our treatment areas and improve accuracy of our reporting.

Extremely tall Phragmites on Courtright Ridge (Photo credit: Giles Restoration Services Inc.)

Ground Program

Lands treated include the Long Point Crown Marsh, Long Point Provincial Park, Long Point Company marsh, BSC lands, Crown lands at the Tip of Long Point, most of the Turkey Point wetland complex and several private properties in the lower Big Creek region. This work was contracted to Eric Giles/Giles Restoration Services Inc. The ground program expanded this year to include the use of two Marsh Masters, one owned by NCC and a second machine owned by Giles, as well as NCC’s 20’ jon boat equipped with a punt motor and spray system. The combination of two Marsh Masters and the boat proved to be necessary to complete work on time in areas where waterfowl hunting was scheduled to begin on Sept 23rd. Fortunately we completed these areas late in the evening of Sept. 22nd.

Aerial program – Sept 11-16

The aerial treatment contract was awarded by MNRF to Expedition Helicopters of Cochrane, the same contractor as was used in 2016. This year the helicopter treated the Long Point Crown Marsh and numerous private properties in the Turkey Point wetland complex. MNRF and NCC staff attended the calibration day held on the morning of Sept 11 at the Tillsonburg airport. The purpose of this exercise is to verify that the nozzles on the aircraft are producing droplets that are in the ASAE Coarse size category prior to treatment; this is a requirement of the Emergency Use Registration approval and results in a droplet size near that of an average rain drop. This measure is undertaken to prevent drift of herbicides to non-target areas and appears to be very effective. The afternoon of the 11th saw the Crown Marsh treated and the Turkey Point wetland complex was completed between Sept 12-16. There was one ‘weather day’ where wind conditions were just over our prescribed limits however overall the job was completed in record time due to general cooperation from mother nature.

 

Monitoring

Monitoring

The Pilot project had a significant monitoring component involved this year. NCC and MNRF worked closely with the Dr. Rebecca Rooney at the University of Waterloo to monitor a variety of parameters relating to the spray program. Results will be available in 2018 as lab work is currently underway and analysis is still to be completed. The monitoring program included:

• Efficacy of the treatment program
• Effects on sensitive coastal marsh communities (incl. benthic invertebrates)
• Fate of the herbicide (glyphosate), AMPA and the adjuvant in the environment
• Assessment of risks to biofilms and the wetland foodwebs (incl. amphibians)
• Monitoring of impacts to fish and fish habitat
• Use of UAV and aerial imagery to assess accuracy and spray drift from 2016 pilot project
NCC and MNRF also undertook a rigorous Drinking Water Quality sampling program at locations in Long Point Crown Marsh, Long Point Causeway, Lower Big Creek and Turkey Point. This effort was to ensure no impact to drinking water sources for residents in these communities and to inform the re-instatement of water system operation in areas where a shutdown was recommending during the spray application. Levels at all sample locations did not come close to the Ontario Drinking Water Standard at any point during the project. Great news for the future of this program!

Next steps for the program include identifying timelines for cutting, rolling and potential prescribed burning of treated areas over the winter months. It is expected that the Marsh Masters will be operating soon using the roller/chopper or cutting attachment in most treated areas. NCC is looking at potential for prescribed burning some key areas however this can be difficult to achieve without good frozen conditions. MNRF is considering the same type of treatment for the Crown Marsh. Future updates on these activities to come over the winter months.

Herbicide Application at Long Point and Rondeau – Fall 2016

Project Overview and Implementation Plan

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (‘the ministry’) has recognized Phragmites as a significant threat to biodiversity and Species at Risk at Long Point and Rondeau coastal marshes. Using currently available management tools, the ministry has been working with several partners in an attempt to eradicate invasive Phragmites from these locations. Efforts to date have been unsuccessful in controlling the spread of Phragmites, primarily due to the lack of a registered herbicide for use in Canada in wet areas.

To date, over two million dollars has been invested by the ministry and partners to control Phragmites at Long Point and Rondeau. Control efforts in dry areas are compromised by the inability to control Phragmites populations in adjacent aquatic areas. Further, the majority of Phragmites infestations at Long Point and Rondeau occur in aquatic areas.

To address the continued and exponential growth of Phragmites in aquatic areas in Rondeau Provincial Park and the Long Point region, the ministry submitted an application to Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency for an Emergency Use Registration to allow for aerial and ground application of an herbicide (active ingredient glyphosate). Aerial herbicide application by helicopter is the preferred method to access the remote and sensitive terrain at the majority of sites at Rondeau and Long Point. It can be used safely and is the most efficient method of treating infestations far from roads, trails, and on otherwise un-drivable terrain.

In June 2016, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry received approval from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency for an emergency use registration of glyphosate to treat Phragmites within shoreline and wetland habitats at Rondeau Provincial Park and at specific sites in the Long Point region as part of a pilot project. Implementation of the pilot project was scheduled to occur between September 1 and October 31, 2016. This pilot project will build upon previous and on-going Phragmites control efforts that have been undertaken at the two sites in terrestrial habitats.

Information provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry: “Invasive Phragmites Control at Long Point and Rondeau Provincial Park” Emergency Use Registration Implementation Plan, 2016.

The Prescribed Burn – Spring 2016

Q & A About the prescribed burn.

Q: What happened the day of the prescribed burn?img_0226
A: On the morning of Saturday, March 12th, 2016, machines were used to roll the Phragmites australis down. After waiting for the fog to burn off and the relative humidity to drop, the burn started. The first flame occurred at about 4:00 pm. Before dark the relative humidity dropped, the wind picked up and the controlled burn increased. The result: most of the western block was treated. We have not burned the east block yet

Q: Who conducted the prescribed burn?
A: The prescribed burn was conducted by wildlife specialists under an agreement with the Long Point Waterfowlers’ Association and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Q: Where did the prescribed burn occur?
A: The prescribed burn took place in the Long Point Crown Marsh situated on the north side of Long Point in Lake Erie.
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Q: Why did the prescribed burn occur?
A: One of the biggest pressures facing coastal marshes in the Lower Great Lakes region is the inundation of Phragmites australis. Phragmites australis outcompetes native vegetation, colonizes and overtakes open water areas.

In order to control Phragmites australis, Best Management Practices have been developed, which have shown to restore water levels and return open water in shallow wetlands. These practices involve applying an herbicide treatment by a licensed contractor during the dry fall season, followed by rolling the Phragmites australis and a final prescribed burn treatment to destroy existing seed heads. This allows for native vegetation communities to begin to re-generate.

This article is courtesy of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry – Aylmer District, published in the Port Rowan Good News, Spring 2016. Photos provided by Claire Paller, MNRF Aylmer District.

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