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).
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.
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).
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 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:
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.
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 4). If you, or someone you know owns property in phase 1, please email the BCWS at email@example.com.
Live in the lower Big Creek area? Have you seen this plant?