Canada — Keith McLean watched a large swath of his wetland go up in flames Saturday and just smiled.
The lifelong Rondeau Bay area resident obtained a burn permit in order to set fire to a 10-hectare area of wetland he owns. He hopes the measure, which included spraying the grass earlier this fall with Roundup, will significantly reduce the phragmites, an invasive species of reed grass that has choked other native species out his wetland.
McLean said five years ago, “I approached the Ministry (of Natural Resources) and told them that I considered this to be a serious threat and they weren’t concerned.”
At the time, he said the phragmites began growing up over the berm surrounding his prized lotus ponds. McLean’s concern grew when one of the roots he cut measured 28-feet long.
He has willingly volunteered his wetland property to be used as a test site to find measures to control the fast growing reed.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has provided funding for 120 experimental test plots spanning from Long Point to Rondeau Bay and the Lake St. Clair area, to examine the effects of different herbicides used to control phragmites on native wetland plant species
McLean was also happy to meet Dr. Janice Gilbert, a wetlands scientist with the Lake Erie Management Unit of the MNR, who is involved with federal/provincial team trying to control phragmites.
“She’s the first person I met with the ministry who also viewed phragmites as a serious threat,” McLean said.
Gilbert told The Chatham Daily News she’s quite often asked what would happen if nature was left to take it’s course with this plant. She believes eventually, perhaps in 100 years, phragmites would start to die off naturally or from some infestation.
“Can we wait for that to happen?” Gilbert said. “I don’t think so, because the habitat we’re losing due to this plant is just extremely valuable and we don’t have a lot of it left.”
Buttonbush swamp, which is a habitat for the endangered prothonotary warbler, is being impacted in the Rondeau area, she said.