Tackling Invasive Phragmites Together

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

by Amelia Chaplin


My name is Amelia Chaplin.  This past summer, I was the Community Outreach Student at Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), creating digital content to promote the NMCA’s many programs and exciting things to see and do, as well as sharing information on the valuable conservation work going on behind the scenes. While there, the Resource Conservation team invited me to participate in the removal of invasive Phragmites.

Invasive Phragmites (Phragmites australis australis), also known as European Common Reed, is an aggressive perennial grass species that thrives in wetlands and beaches. Once it starts growing, it takes over, choking out natives species. It is incredibly difficult to eradicate because it establishes sophisticated underground root networks. Throughout the summer, I was intrigued by Parks Canada’s conservation work, so I jumped at the chance to remove Phragmites on Cebina Island, located in the Moffat Strait between Simpson and St. Ignace Islands.

On Cebina Island, the Phragmites patch measured 250 square meters, and was rooted both on dry land and to the lakebed near shore. We utilized a two pronged spading strategy to completely remove the patch. The land-based Phragmites and their stems were extracted using shovels, while the water-based Phragmites were cut off at the stems with their roots left to drown. We set up and diligently monitored a physical barrier within the water to prevent spreading Phragmites as a result of our removal efforts.

The removal process was a tough job! Thankfully, we weren’t alone. We worked side-by-side with volunteers from the Lands and Resources department of Red Rock Indian Band and Parks Canada staff from Pukaskwa National Park. In two days, we removed every last visible trace of Phragmites, and left the island with 47 extra-large trash bags filled with the invasive species.

Resource conservation is crucial to the integrity of all Parks Canada sites. The invasive species removal process was exhausting but exhilarating, and the team of staff, colleagues, and partners left the island with a sense of pride and accomplishment. If you’re interested in the work happening at Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, I wholeheartedly encourage you to contact the site to report invasive Phragmites sightings and volunteer on upcoming shoreline clean ups. Conservation can’t be implemented without community-based collaboration.

Keep on protecting and exploring!


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