PhragNet: crowdsourcing to investigate ecology and management of invasive Phragmites australis (common reed) in North America

Abstract

Invasion biology research, often performed by scientists at relatively small spatial scales, provides experimental precision but may be limited in generalizability. Conversely, large-scale invasive species management represents a largely untapped wealth of information on invasion ecology and management, but such data are difficult to capture and synthesize. We developed a network (“PhragNet”) of individuals managing wetlands occupied by native and non-native lineages of the invasive wetland grass Phragmites australis (common reed). This network collected environmental and genetic samples, habitat data, and management information to identify environmental and plant community associations of Phragmites invasion and patterns of management responses. Fifty managers overseeing 209 Phragmites stands in 16 US states and ON, Canada participated. Participants represented federal agencies (26%), municipalities (20%), NGOs (20%), academia (14%), state agencies (12%), and private landowners (8%). Relative to the native lineage, non-native Phragmites occurred in areas with higher nitrate/nitrite and ammonium than non-native Phragmites. Stand interiors had higher soil electrical conductivity than nearby uninvaded areas, consistent with use of road salt promoting spread of Phragmites. Non-native Phragmites co-occurred with fewer plant species than native Phragmites and was actively targeted for management. Herbicide was applied to 51% of non-native stands; surprisingly, 11% of native stands were also treated with herbicide. This project demonstrates the utility of crowdsourcing standardized data from resource managers. We conclude by describing how this approach could be expanded into an adaptive management framework, strengthening connections between wetland management and research.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by funding from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. The authors thank the many natural resource managers who participated in this project, and Clément Kouyoumdjian, John M. Keller, and Anna Braum for help with field work, laboratory analyses, and data management. Joel Brown and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful input on the manuscript.

Funding

This research was supported by funding from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant; Award Number 2010-02247-01.

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Correspondence to Victoria M. Hunt.

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 459 kb) Data collection forms and protocol for PhragNet

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Hunt, V.M., Fant, J.B., Steger, L. et al. PhragNet: crowdsourcing to investigate ecology and management of invasive Phragmites australis (common reed) in North America. Wetlands Ecol Manage 25, 607–618 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-017-9539-x

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Keywords

  • Habitat management
  • Herbicide
  • Invasive species
  • Nutrients
  • Salinity
  • Wetlands