zylhdum · 2021-09-24

Park fights phragmites with herbicide this fall

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park has released its action plan on how to deal with the invasive plant known as Common Reed or Phragmites australis, which growing along the shore of Nottawasaga Bay.

The plan calls for a multi-pronged approach using many techniques in conjunction with the use of herbicide over the next three years.

Staff warn that people should not try to use herbicide themselves as misuse of the herbicide could help the plants build up an immunity to the herbicide staff is using.

Park staff is asking people not to take matters into their own hands by cutting or digging the plants as those techniques have been proven to accelerate its growth.

The Minister of Natural Resources visited Wasaga Beach in October to inspect the growth of the non-native plant, after being contacted by area residents.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park natural heritage education leader Keith Johnston penned the plan over the winter. He was hired in the fall as a contract assistant park planner to complete the plan.

He said staff and volunteers will apply a number of techniques laid out in the plan to designated test areas in the fall. The efforts will be concentrated at Beach Area 6 to start.

Staff had intended to do some work to cull the spread of common reed at the point where the Nottawasaga River lets out into the bay this spring but the early arrival of Piping Plovers, an endangered bird that has returned to nest in Wasaga Beach, has forced staff to change their plans.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park superintendent John Fisher said the phragmites growing at the point is a concern because they are choking out the habitat of the Piping Plovers.

The herbicide will be used in conjunction with removing and burning the flowering parts of the plant to reduce seed dispersal and rolling the dead stalks in the winter to make it easier to apply the herbicide.

Johnston said there is a native species of phragmites that is non-invasive and grows with the other natural beach grasses that are vital to the stabilization of sand dunes and a healthy beach ecosystem.

He said Phragmites australis is typically a wetland plant and that is why its appearance along the shore of Lake Huron has baffled scientists for years.

The plant was first discovered in Wasaga Beach about three years ago.

It was believed that the plant could not grow in a beach environment but Johnston said it has adapted so rapidly to beach conditions and so efficiently that samples from some patches growing in Wasaga Beach had to be sent away for genetic testing to see if they were native or non-native. The non-native species had adapted to resemble the native species.

The difference is in its invasive nature.

Johnston said Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is basing its approach on years of experience and trial-and-error of others.

He said, based on his research and consultation with experts working in the field, Wasaga Beach is two years ahead of the game.

The plan will be reevaluated in three years, after each of the beach areas affected are treated although new methods and techniques will be incorporated as they become available.

The program is overseen by a steering committee consisting of representatives from Ontario Parks, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and Environment Canada.