Project: PhragNet

Vicky Hunt from the Chicago Botanic Garden fills us in on PhragNet: a partner-based initiative that pairs research with on-going Phragmites management. Specifically, researchers at the Chicago Botanic Garden are asking land managers to 1) send in samples of soil and Phragmites leaves, 2) and to share information on their management techniques and site characteristics. These samples and data will help accelerate the process of finding more effective Phragmites management techniques. Read on to learn more and please consider participating!

What type of project is this?

  • Education/outreach
  • Planning
  • Research

Why are you focusing on the issue of Phragmites management?

Several uncertainties complicate Phragmites management including:

1) How can we restore Phragmites-impacted areas back to diverse wetland communities?
2) What works well, what doesn’t?
3) How do genetics and environmental conditions influence management outcomes?

We seek to reduce this uncertainty through adaptive management, a decision analysis approach that reduces uncertainty over time through iterative application of competing models.

What exactly is PhragNet?

PhragNet is a cooperative learning network for adaptive management of Phragmites-invaded habitats.  We have used crowd sourcing to build a professionally-diverse network of project participants, currently consisting of ca. 50 managers (and growing!).  From volunteer stewards to professional biologists, participants share a common objective: to collectively learn about monitoring and managing Phragmites.  Participants contribute data including community composition and hydrology of invaded sites, submit soil samples for nutrient analysis, and submit Phragmites tissue for genetic analysis.  Thus far, participants have contributed data, soil and Phragmites samples from 21 sites comprising approximately 27 ha.  The data inform models of invasion, from which we generate situation-specific management recommendations.  PhragNet is integrated with decision support tools for invasive species management developed in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Chicago Botanic Garden.  By joining PhragNet, participants connect with a larger network of National Wildlife Refuge managers.  PhragNet represents a framework for collaborative, management-driven research .

Who are your partners in this effort?

We partner with individuals and organizations that are managing Phragmites. Our network currently contains approximately 50 individuals from:

  1. Local, state, and federal agencies
  2. NGOs
  3. Consultants
  4. Stewards
  5. Academics

How does PhragNet help participants?

We provide participants with genetic identification of their Phragmites samples.  We inform participants about whether they have the native or exotic subspecies, and about how soil conditions might be influencing Phragmites abundance. Collectively and over the longer term, we will use the tools of adaptive management to identify which actions are most effective for controlling Phragmites and reestablishing desired plant communities.

What are the funding sources?

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

What are the goals and objectives for the project?

Our goal is to harness the collective, on-going efforts of managers to accelerate learning about how to most effectively control Phragmites and restore impacted habitats.

What type of land does your project target? 

We focus on the Phragmites-invaded habitats in the upper Midwest but we are open to everyone.

 Do you monitor the areas that you manage? If so, what does that entail?

 We use a standardized monitoring protocol available on our site.

What is the status of the program and are you seeing results?

Our program is ongoing. We have developed a professionally diverse learning network of approximately 50 individuals. Thus far, participants have contributed data, soil and Phragmites samples from 19 sites.

Going forward: We will continue to develop our network. We are always looking for participants.  Our next challenge will be using data obtained from participants to inform models of invasion, from which we will generate situation-specific management recommendations and develop a decision support tool.

What should people do if they are interested in participating?

Email [email protected] or visit our website at for detailed instructions on how to participate.

This project is looking for participants!

For more information contact:

Vicky Hunt
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd
Glencoe, IL 60022
[email protected]