Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

R/EH-3

What Happens After the Phragmites Is Killed? The Role of Native Plantings in Accelerating Post-treatment Recovery of Tidal Wetlands

Principal Investigator: 

Dennis Whigham

Start/End Year: 

2020 to 2022

Institution: 

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Co-Principal investigator: 

Karin Kettenring, Utah State University; Melissa McCormick, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; Andrew Baldwin, University of Maryland College Park

Strategic focus area: 

Healthy coastal ecosystems

Description: 

A European haplotype of Phragmites australis (common reed) is an increasingly widespread invasive plant in Chesapeake Bay tidal wetlands. The spread of Phragmites has been promoted by disturbance and nutrient enrichment, resulting in threats to native plants and animals and triggering changes in ecological processes in wetlands. Cultural issues such as loss of vision-scape and access to water are important public concerns. Phragmites removal is possible but difficult, and thus is likely to be cost-effective over relatively small areas. Furthermore, the potential negative effects of Phragmites removal are poorly understood (e.g., wetland subsidence) and planting of native species that could speed the rate of ecosystem recovery following Phragmites removal has not been explored. The proposed research has three objectives: 1. Use experimental plantings to determine which native species provide the highest potential for restoration and carbon storage in wetlands with different salinity regimes, 2. Monitor vegetation where Phragmites has been removed over the past 15-20 years to quantify patterns of vegetation recovery in wetlands with different salinity regimes, and 3. Provide management agencies, institutions, civic organizations, and individuals with guidelines and protocols to effectively restore sites following Phragmites removal.