Ecosystem research experiments and remote sensing studies, conducted from 2010 through 2013, assembled a team of Eastern Michigan University wetland scientists, biologists, geographers, remote-sensing specialists and their students to identify and map Phragmites. Biological field research was conducted at sites selected in consultation with Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge managers and remote sensing studies and mapping was conducted at all of the refuge management units. Research findings are being used for developing management policies regarding conservation, rehabilitation, and restoration and for identifying best practices for the control and eradication of Phragmites from the refuge ecosystem.
The project focused on several major tasks: 1) developing and validating remote sensing protocols for monitoring Phragmites distribution, 2) mapping habitats within the refuge using remote sensing and ground truth data, 3) assessing the effects of Phragmites invasion and Phragmites removal efforts on wetland ecosystem function, and 4) publishing the results of the study using a GIS-based interactive map viewer platform to inform and aid management activities at the refuge.
A series of 19 transects have been established in areas to document a broad range of plant communities and Phragmites cover. These serve as the base-line condition from which managers can evaluate their management effectiveness. Monitoring information is published through a series of field reports available on the CWMA website. Due to the large acreages that receive treatment, most lands are visited with the intent to rapidly evaluate the success of previous treatments and the extent of Phragmites, as well as native plant regeneration.
During monitoring, land managers must evaluate the potential use of prescribed fire, mowing, or slow decomposition as well as how to prescribe further herbicide treatments. These decisions require knowledge of the local ecology and natural communities, public use considerations, rare and endangered species, and logistics. Therefore, monitoring the coverage of Phragmites is only one piece of information, albeit an important one, to determine the most efficient type of operations required to continue meeting management objectives.
Additional monitoring methods, such as photo monitoring, convey success more dramatically than a table of numbers. Anecdotal observations have also been made during field visits, following Phragmites treatment, to note if any of the species documented are of conservation value. All monitoring methods should extend beyond grant periods to be truly representative of results.