Wetlands Ecology and Management

Human Facilitation of Phragmites australis Invasions in Tidal Marshes: A Review and Synthesis

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Courtesy of Wetlands Ecology and Management

Efforts to manage or prevent Phragmites australis invasion in salt and brackish marshes are complicated by the lack of a general causal role for specific human activities. The pattern of invasion within a marsh differs among sites, and each may have different causal histories. A review of the literature finds three establishment/invasion patterns: (1) from stands established on ditch- or creek-bank levees toward interior portions of high marshes, (2) from stands along upland borders toward high marsh interiors, and (3) centroid spread from high marsh stands established in ostensibly random locations. Each invasion pattern seems to have different anthropogenic precursors, therefore preventing generalizations about the role of any one human activity in all sites. However, historical and experimental evidence suggests that regardless of invasion pattern, establishment is much more likely at sites where rhizomes are buried in well-drained, low salinity marsh areas. Any human activity that buries large rhizomes, increases drainage, or lowers salinity increases chances of establishing invasive clones. To integrate these patterns and improve our understanding of the rapid spread of Phragmites, recent evidence has been synthesized into a dichotomous flow chart which poses questions about current site conditions and the potential for proposed activities to change site conditions that may facilitate invasion. This simple framework could help managers assess susceptibility and take preventative measures in coastal marshes before invasion occurs or before removal becomes very expensive.

Keywords: Anthropogenic influences - Control - Phragmites australis invasion - Prevention - Salt marshes

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