Phragmites infestations have affected shallow water habitat in the Winyah Bay/Santee Delta area for more than three decades. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has battled Phragmites in its waterfowl impoundments for most of that time with limited success, but the release of a new and more effective herbicide has encouraged the agency to increase control efforts.
The herbicide used by S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to treat Phragmites, imazapyr (under the trade name Habitat), is environmentally safe and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use in aquatic areas. The toxic effects to fish and aquatic invertebrates have been found to be insignificant based on tests using standardized Environmental Protection Agency protocols.
A Phragmites invasion alters the structure and function of diverse marsh ecosystems by changing species composition, nutrient cycles and hydrological regimes. Dense stands of Phragmites decrease native biodiversity and quality of wetland habitat, particularly for migrating wading birds and waterfowl species. Find out more about Phragmites at the Aquatic Nuisance Species Program Web site: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/water/envaff/aquatic/phragmites.html.
The summer of 2006 brings more opportunities to stem the tide of Phragmites. Based on the 2006 S.C. Aquatic Plant Management Plan, the DNR intends to complete treatment of an additional 1,380 acres on public lands at a cost of $257,000. Find out more about the Aquatic Plant Management Plan at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/water/envaff/aquatic/plan.html.
2006 Phragmites control operations include:
Additional treatments are scheduled to begin in the same areas and in Charleston harbor in early August.
In the summer of 2005, about 1,992 acres of Phragmites were treated on DNR properties at a cost of $351,089. The treatment project was a cooperative effort between the DNR Aquatic Nuisance Species Program and the DNR Wildlife Section to improve waterfowl habitat and control the spread of an invasive species.
Phragmites is an aquatic perennial plant that can reach 10 to 12 feet in height and shade out shorter native vegetation. It can grow along the shorelines of water bodies or in water several feet deep. In South Carolina, it is restricted to the outer coastal plain where it occurs in fresh, brackish and salt marshes and along streams, rivers and estuaries. This plant is a native of the U.S. and is normally not a problem. However, an introduced European genotype of the plant is highly invasive. Recent research has shown that both native and introduced species of Phragmites currently exist in North America. For further information about how to distinguish between the two genotypes, check http://www.invasiveplants.net/phragmites/.