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Invasive, native marsh grasses may provide similar benefits to protected wetlands

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Posted: 27 Feb 2017 12:03 PM PST Science Daily  full article here

An invasive species of marsh grass that spreads, kudzu-like, throughout North American wetlands, may provide similar benefits to protected wetlands as native marsh grasses. According to new research, the invasive marsh grass’s effects on carbon storage, erosion prevention and plant diversity in protected wetlands are neutral….

…Phragmites australis, known as the common reed, is an invasive marsh grass that can spread at rates up to 15 feet per year. It thrives throughout North American wetlands, and studies have demonstrated that its densely packed growth pattern chokes out native marsh plants, thereby reducing plant diversity and habitat used by some threatened and endangered birds.

However, other studies have shown that Phragmites may help reduce shoreline erosion in marshlands and store carbon at faster rates than native grasses… The findings were encouraging. The team found no significant differences between ecosystem services of the marshes they studied, indicating that Phragmites‘ effect was largely neutral. However, Theuerkauf points out that the neutral effect could be due to the protected status of the wetlands they studied and the specific ecosystem services evaluated.

“Studies that associate Phragmites with negative impacts on wetlands are often conducted in areas that have seen significant human interventions, such as shoreline development or construction of drainage canals, whereas our study was conducted in undisturbed marsh habitat within a protected reserve system,” Theuerkauf says….

Seth J. Theuerkauf, Brandon J. Puckett, Kathrynlynn W. Theuerkauf, Ethan J. Theuerkauf, David B. Eggleston. Density-dependent role of an invasive marsh grass, Phragmites australis, on ecosystem service provision. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (2): e0173007 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173007

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