|COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION CASE STUDY|
|Phragmites Control on the Rappahannock River|
|Landowner Leads the Fight to Control an Invasive Species|
|Project Summary: For the sixth consecutive year, landowner and refuge volunteer, Alice Wellford, has led a private/public partnership to control invasive populations of Phragmites on the Rappahannock River.|
|Invasive phragmites forms a "monoculture" crowding out native plants along Hoskins Creek in Tappahannock, Virginia. Photo by Joe McCauley, US Fish and Wildlife Service|
Resource ChallengeIn North America, Phragmites australis occurs in two forms: an invasive, non-native type introduced from Europe over 100 years ago, and several native types that have been in existence here for thousands of years. Over the past 50 years, the introduced type has increased dramatically across the United States, forming monotypic stands that crowd out native vegetation. This reduces the diversity and abundance of native plants, as well as the fish and wildlife species that depend on them. Because the invasions typically occur in wetlands, care must be taken during control operations to minimize non-target impacts. Currently, there are two approved herbicides that are commonly used to control phragmites in wetlands that have minimal impact on wetland ecology. RPAC uses both in its control program.
Examples of Key PartnersIn 2000, the Rappahannock Phragmites Action Committee (RPAC) was organized to halt the spread of invasive populations of Phragmites australis within the lower Rappahannock River wateshed. This partnership was originally established through the efforts of one concerned landowner, Alice Wellford, who became alarmed when Phragmites invaded her pristine freshwater marsh. During each of the past six years, this consortium of state and federal agencies, non-profit conservation organizations, local governments, and private citizens have combined resources to control over 120 individual patches of Phragmites, stretching over 70 miles of the Rappahannock River. In recent years, including the control program planned for 2005, the initiative has been coordinated by staff of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Results and AccomplishmentsUnlike many places where Phragmites has invaded along the Atlantic Coast, the Rappahannock River is relatively "Phrag-free" with only about 2% of the shoreline affected. This presents the RPAC partnership with the advantage of controlling it before it takes over huge marshes, as it has in other parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. By obtaining grants from the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Virginia Wetlands Trust Fund, and with additional funding through the National Wildlife Refuge System's Challenge Cost Share Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, RPAC has treated over 300 acres, in over 120 individual patches, along the entire length of the tidal portion of the Rappahannock River. Nearly all this work has been on private lands and has been accomplished at no cost to landowners. Volunteers have logged hundreds of hours supporting Refuge staff and other partners to do this important work.