The Lake Erie CWMA seeks to manage non-native Phragmites to the benefit of the whole system within Lake Erie’s coastal wetlands. Restoring native vegetation restores the ecological community dependent upon it. The western Lake Erie basin (WLEB) coastal marshes have long been recognized for their significance in providing habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna, and in particular for migratory birds.  As an example, the coastal wetlands and inland marshes of Ohio alone support an estimated 500,000 itinerant waterfowl during fall migration, and the WLEB is the premier stopover point in the Great Lakes for long-distance migratory shorebirds.  The western Lake Erie marshes have also been recognized as a globally significant ‘Important Bird Area’ by the National Audubon Society because of the diversity and abundance of wading birds, waterfowl, landbirds, and shorebirds it supports throughout the year.

Controlled Phragmites burn. Photo: Lake Erie CWMA

Controlled Phragmites burn. Photo: Lake Erie CWMA

Continued Phragmites management will also contribute to achieving protection of lands close to Lake Erie that have been identified by The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Ohio, and Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network as important stopover sites for shorebird migration.  This will also contribute to meeting acreage needed to accommodate migrating shorebird population objectives identified in the habitat conservation strategies of the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture,  and will further goals of the Ohio State Wildlife Action Plan for the Lake Erie Marsh Focus Area to restore 7,000 acres of non-forested wetland and species dependent upon these wetlands, including some species dependent upon forested wetlands.  Some species that could benefit from this restoration are American bittern, American black duck, mallard, blue-winged teal, hooded merganser, great egret, short-billed dowitcher, Wilson’s snipe, sora, Virginia and king rail, marsh wren, prothonotary warbler, Blanding’s turtle, and eastern fox snake.

By focusing on the whole system and restoration of native vegetation, management efforts can be related to a wide variety of ecosystem benefits including aesthetics, avian response, and biodiversity.

The challenge has been finding a way to collect sufficient data to make the case for these indicators and present the data in a way that is useful to other land managers. Without dedicated funding for research and analysis, data dissemination and presentation has been minimal, though results are promising.