Scientists Find Invasive Plant Possible Tool in Fighting Climate - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Scientists Find Invasive Plant Possible Tool in Fighting Climate Change

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CAMBRIDGE, Md. - Some scientists say one of the most invasive species of plants on Delmarva can actually do a lot of good.

For centuries the long, feather-like invasive plant called a phragmite has decimated marshlands, including those at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, making it nearly impossible for wildlife to live.

Standing tall and in clusters among the marshes, scientists say phragmites may be another tool to fighting climate change. The evidence appears in a 14-page study examining different invasive plants. The results found soil rich in stored carbon and helpful in growing habitats.

Blackwater Wildlife Biologist Nate Carle takes the findings with a grain of salt. Carle says phragmites are known to destroy native plants, drive out wildlife, and take over parts of the refuge altogether.

"In the understory, phragmites seem to love those areas more than anything," Carle said. "Things like secretive marsh birds, railbirds, and salt marsh sparrows no longer use that habitat because phragmites is dominant."

But the study's authors, research biologists Christina Simkanin and Ian Davidson, say careful control of both phragmites and native plants could be ideal.

"This is a phenomenon that's happening broadly and the Eastern Shore is a good example of it," Davidson said.

"There are some positive aspects of phragmites and when trying to decide whether to put in the time and the energy and money into eradication, thinking about the positive and negatives are both important," Simkanin said.

They're positives and negatives Carle says Blackwater Refuge is already considering to save animals and Earth.

"Phragmites are going to continue to grow," Carle said. "But we're also entrusted to manage these lands to promote wildlife."

Carle adds Blackwater Refuge already has a lot of phragmite control programs in place. Carle says the programs don't eradicate all phragmites but control how much marshland they invade.

 

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