Roads play a major role in facilitating the spread of non-native Phragmites throughout North America by increasing the level of connectivity between invaded and uninvaded habitats. Vehicles on roads can directly transport seeds and plant fragments among areas. The construction of new roads increases the surrounding area’s vulnerability to Phragmites invasion by disturbing soil. Roadsides maintenance activities, such as mowing and culvert cleaning, can further contribute to the spread of Phragmites if not done properly.
The rapid progression of an invasive genotype of common reed along roads and other linear infrastructures in North America provides one of the most spectacular examples of the role of transportation corridors as invasion pathways. Brisson et al 2010
Best management practices
The majority of the following best management practices (BMPs) are intended to limit the transport of seeds and rhizomes through construction machinery. Visit the How does it spread? section of our website for more information on Phragmites dispersal strategies. We are not aware of Roadside Best Management Practices specific to Phragmites in the Great Lakes; however we have drawn from guidance developed in other regions of the country and Canada to develop the following recommendations. If you are aware of BMPs developed specifically to address roadside management of Phragmites, please contact us.
Published Clean Equipment Protocols:
- All residual plant parts should be transported to a disposal site.
- Inorganic material such as hay, gravel, loam and fill should not be transported from infected sites to other locations.
- Germination rates of Phragmites seeds are considerably higher on humid, bare soil. Quebec Ministry of Transportation strongly suggests that Phragmitesculms be cut at a minimal height of 12 inches (~300 mm) to prevent the creation of favorable habitat for seeds establishment.
- New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) advises that all equipment used to cut or mow Phragmites be cleaned on-site, to prevent the transport of seeds and fragments. Further, New Hampshire DOT lists high pressure air, portable wash station with a runoff containers, or brush and broom use without water as safe cleaning methods.
- For more information, read New Hampshire Department of Transportation 2008 Best Management Practices Guide for Roadsides Invasive Plants.
- The California Invasive Plant Council’s Preventing the Spread of Invasive Plants: Best Management Practices for Transportation and Utility Corridors is a well thought-out, easy to use document that provides BMPs for all stages of work.
- The Ontario Invasive Species Council’s Clean Equipment Protocol for Industry is a well written protocol for cleaning equipment that highlights the how and the why. In Ontario, this protocol is regularly included with contracts, along with details for the particular project, to specify the desired practices. It has been successful on projects that vary in scale from landowners contracting loggers to harvest wood to municipalities contracting park maintenance, and is even being used in the development of the international bridge between Canada and the U.S. at Windsor.
- Print out the Clean Equipment Summary and bring it with you; it has great how-to diagrams.
- The Wisconsin Council on Forestry prepared a series of BMP guides, including the Invasive Species Best Management Practices For Transportation and Utility Rights-of-Way guide. It contains basic information on invasive species and BMPs in planning, management, monitoring, transportation of material, revegetation and landscaping.
Ongoing research projects
- A team of researchers from Universite de Montreal and Universite Laval have evaluated the relative contribution of sexual and vegetative reproduction in Phragmites dispersal mechanisms along roadsides to inform future best management practices. For more information see their paper Strategies for a successful plant invasion: The reproduction of Phragmites australis in north-eastern North America.
- Dr. Jacques Brisson’s laboratory (Institut de Recherche en Biologie Vegetale, Universite de Montreal) is working in partnership with Quebec Ministry of Transport to evaluate if shrubs planted along roads could successfully confine Phragmites in roadsides and other right-of-ways. For more information about this project, read their latest report: Prévenir et contrôler l’envahissement des autoroutes par le roseau commun (Phragmites australis) [in French].