Ecology of Native vs. Introduced Phragmites australis (Common Reed) in Chicago-Area Wetlands

Abstract

Rapid spread of Phragmites australis (common reed) in North American wetlands is widely attributed to cryptic invasion by an introduced lineage. However, in the Midwestern U.S., the native subspecies (subsp. americanus) may also exhibit rapid expansion. Where both lineages occur, wetland managers are sometimes unsure whether they should limit management activities to the introduced lineage or control both. We conducted field studies to contrast the ecology of native and introduced Phragmites by pairing patches of each with native reference vegetation. We measured each lineage’s association with environmental conditions, their growth metrics (stem heights, stem densities, and plant cover), and their invasiveness as indicated by the diversity and composition of associated plant communities. Introduced Phragmites exhibited more robust growth than the native, and its growth was more positively correlated with increases in soil nutrient availability and salinity. Areas with introduced Phragmites had lower plant diversity and altered species composition relative to reference vegetation. We did not observe similar evidence of invasiveness in native Phragmites. We encourage wetland managers to differentiate populations by lineage and, unless there is compelling evidence to do otherwise, restrict control efforts to the introduced lineage.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by funding from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and a Plant Biology and Conservation Student Research Award. We thank the following agencies for granting us permission to conduct research on their lands and helping us to identify suitable study sites: Chicago Department of the Environment, Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Forest Preserve District of Kane County, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake County Forest Preserve District, and United States Army Corps of Engineers. The following research assistants and volunteers helped with field and lab work: Adewale Adeoba, Jeb Boyer, Cat Collins, David Ford, Thomas Graan, and Dara Wise. Stuart Wagenius and Eric Lonsdorf provided guidance on statistical analyses and other aspects of the project.

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Correspondence to Amy L. Price.

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Price, A.L., Fant, J.B. & Larkin, D.J. Ecology of Native vs. Introduced Phragmites australis (Common Reed) in Chicago-Area Wetlands. Wetlands 34, 369–377 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-013-0504-z

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Keywords

  • Invasive species
  • Eutrophication
  • Cryptic invasion
  • Midwest