Invasive Phragmites Education for Waterfowl Hunters, 2014-15
Goals and Objectives
Phragmites australis subsp. australis (Common Reed) is an invasive perennial grass that was transported from Eurasia and is causing severe damage to coastal wetlands and beaches in North America. It invades wetland environments, forming large dense stands (monocultures), which out-compete (replace) native plant species destroying important habitat (e.g. meadow marsh) for many wildlife species, such as waterfowl. In 2005, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada identified it as the nations “worst” invasive plant species.
Given its current distribution and association with wetland habitats, waterfowl hunters in particular, can play an important role in preventing the spread of this invasive species. This project seeks to educate waterfowl hunters on the negative impacts associated with invasive Phragmites (e.g. social, economic, and ecological), and how they can help prevent its spread (e.g. removing seed heads (before transporting) if cutting for use on duck blinds). Also, whether on land or in the water, invasive plant seeds can easily stick to clothing, pets and equipment; therefore, it is important that hunters are aware that it is a good practice to brush off any plants, dirt, or insects, and avoid transporting invasive plants to other natural areas.
The above-mentioned objective will be achieved through the production of new educational resources (e.g. brochure, presentation), as well as the development and delivery of workshops in Ontario. The workshop presentation will educate waterfowl hunters about invasive species and how to identify key wetland invaders, such as Phragmites. This presentation will be accompanied by workshop stations and resources that engage waterfowl hunters in hands-on demonstrations with respect to identification (using specimens), decontamination techniques for equipment, as well as how to report sightings of invasive species to the Invading Species Awareness Program. Furthermore, OFAH staff will produce an educational brochure for distribution at workshops, as well as key locations and events (e.g. Toronto Sportsmen’s Show).
Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetland-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife
In Ontario, invasive Phragmites has been identified across the southern part of the province, with scattered occurrences as far north as Georgian Bay and Lake Superior. It is currently sold through the horticultural trade as an ornamental plant and spreads through various methods, including by wind and water. Stands of invasive Phragmites decrease biodiversity and destroy habitat for other species. This project will contribute to the conservation of habitat as it will promote and educate waterfowl hunters on the steps they can take to not spread invasive species to new habitats. The cost of prevention (through education and outreach) is far less than the cost of controlling invasive species once they have established in environments. Thus, public education and awareness programs are integral to efforts to prevent new introductions and the spread of invasive species with the ultimate goal of protecting and conserving our natural habitats and biodiversity.
This project takes place throughout Ontario, with brochure distribution throughout the province and workshops taking place in Peterborough, Morpeth, Port Rowan, Clarington, Brighton and Wolfe Island.
For more information on this project, please contact Matt Smith, Invading Species Awareness Program Coordinator, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Peterborough, Ontario.