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«2010 Michigan Natural Features Inventory Contents Overview Value of Coastal Areas.................................. ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --


— and the rare plants, animals

and natural communities along

Michigan’s northern coasts

Produced with funding provided by:

• Michigan Department of Natural Resources—Wildlife Division

• National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

• United States Fish and Wildlife Service


— and the rare plants, animals

and natural communities along

Michigan’s northern coasts


Michigan Natural Features Inventory


Overview Value of Coastal Areas............................................................1 Controlling and/or Eradicating Non-native Phragmites...........................2 Recognizing invasive Non-native Phragmites.....................................3 Planning a control effort in the Coastal Zone.....................................4 Natural communities of Michigan’s northern coastlines Alvar.............................................................................6 Coastal fen.......................................................................6 Great Lakes marsh................................................................7 Interdunal wetland...............................................................7 Limestone bedrock glade........................................................8 Limestone bedrock shoreline.....................................................8 Northern fen.....................................................................9 Open dunes......................................................................9 Sand and gravel beach..........................

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Table Rare species by natural community type....................................... 28 Overview Value of Coastal Areas Michigan’s coastal beaches, dunes and diverse wetlands are exceptionally rich, harboring seven federally listed species, along with 15 distinctive community types and forty state endangered, threatened, and special concern species. These coastal communities are critically important to migratory birds, near shore fish spawning and rearing, waterfowl hunting, and sport fishing.

Pitcher’s thistle With over 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, Michigan is particularly Federally listed species vulnerable to the impacts of wetin Michigan’s Coastal Zone land and aquatic invasive species. In particular, the invasion of non-native Piping plover (Endangered) phragmites (Phragmites australis) Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Endangered) poses one of the greatest threats to Houghton’s goldenrod (Threatened) coastal wetlands and shorelines in the Michigan monkey-flower (Endangered) Great Lakes region. Early detection of Pitcher’s thistle (Threatened) non-native phragmites and a rapid response in controlling it is one of the Lakeside daisy (Endangered) most proactive and cost effective ac- Dwarf-lake iris (Threatened) tions that can be taken to conserve the rare species of Michigan’s coastal zone.

In 2009, a collaborative effort to detect and treat invasive phragmites was initiated along Michigan’s northern coasts. In partnership with MDNR, MDEQ, and many local entities including townships, Conservation Districts, State Parks, watershed councils, land conservancies, lake associations and citizens, Michigan Natural

Features Inventory (MNFI):

• prioritized sites with respect to rare plants, animals and natural communities;

• conducted surveys for phragmites over 500 miles of shoreline;

• conducted workshops for local officials, stakeholders and contractors;

• coordinated treatment with local stakeholders and DNRE staff;

• developed resource materials including maps, PowerPoint presentations, brochures, and guidelines for herbicide use around rare animals.

The project is supported by MDNR-Wildlife Division, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

1 Controlling and/or Eradicating Non-native Phragmites A number of different control techniques have been utilized to combat phragmites with varying degrees of success; digging, mowing, burning, flooding, grazing, and treatment with several different herbicides.

Although many prefer to avoid the use of chemicals, herbicides currently provide the most effective primary method of control, particularly when coupled with non-chemical methods that will further stress the plant.

Because phragmites has deep and extensive root systems, digging is not effective except for the very smallest infestations. Mowing early in the season will actually increase stand density, although later in the season, it can help deplete energy reserves. Flooding cut stems can be effective but is not feasible in many settings.

Prescribed fire can increase the growth and vigor of phragmites but is a useful tool in conjunction with herbicide, as it clears away thatch and allows the seed bank to respond.

One or more permits from the Department of Environmental Quality are typically required to treat phragmites with herbicide. Information on permits and other resources can be found at the links below. Phragmites control is a long-term endeavor; any treatment plan should include provisions for long-term monitoring and re-treatment of new shoots as needed.


Control and Management of Invasive Phragmites - MDEQ website:


Two particularly helpful publications are available at this website:

Information for Resource and Land Managers - A Guide to the Control and Management of Invasive Phragmites Information for Landowners - A Landowner’s Guide to Phragmites Control

For hard copies of the second brochure contact the Office of the Great Lakes at:


Catching it early Since treating invasive phragmites early is easiest, likeliest to result in eradication and most cost effective, it is imperative to catch it just as it begins to invade. Unfortunately, this is when it most resembles the native. In planning control efforts, it is critical to first determine that the population in question is actually the invasive subspecies. Non-native phragmites can appear sparse while it is just beginning to invade, but a few characteristics can help to distinguish it from the native.

2 Recognizing invasive Non-native Phragmites Although phragmites is best known as a wetland invader, not all phragmites is invasive. Two subspecies are recognized in Michigan; Phragmites australis subsp.

australis, sometimes known as Haplotype M, was introduced to the east coast by the early 1800s and has been gradually expanding its range westward. It forms dense monocultures and is capable of dominating wetlands within a few years.

The native subspecies, Phragmites australis subsp. americanus, in contrast, occurs as scattered plants within broader plant communities. It is a component of several wetland communities including Great Lakes marsh, coastal fen and sedge meadows, and is often found along the shores of rivers and lakes.

Differences are most obvious when the two subspecies are side by side; leaf color is subtly different and the bright red stems of the native are distinctive. Leaf sheaths of non-native phragmites cling tightly, covering dull tan stems with tiny ridges. The lower leaf sheaths of native phragmites fall off easily, exposing the stem below, which turns red in the sunlight.

The non-native subspecies has stolons (spreading horizontal stems) that can grow up to 50 ft or more in a season. Unlike the upright stems, they can be quite red.

Non-native Native Generally the non-native form emerges earlier in the season and continues to grow later in the fall. It is considerably more robust and grows in dense colonies.

While it is just beginning to invade and is still relatively sparse, the non-native subspecies may be mistaken for the native. Similarly, in areas with nutrient enrichment, the native form may grow taller and more densely. With practice, the two subspecies can be distinguished. Recently, hybrids have been reported in the literature but they appear to be relatively uncommon.

More information on distinguishing the two subspecies is available online at:

http://web4.msue.msu.edu/mnfi/phragmites/native-or-not.cfm 3 Planning a control effort in the Coastal Zone When prioritizing areas for treatment, consider protecting high quality natural communities and those areas with threatened and endangered species before areas that do not have the same ecological significance.

• Work first in newly invaded sites • Then treat areas that are moderately invaded • Finally, treat areas with extensive invasion Make sure that resources for long-term monitoring and spot treatment are available before initiating control efforts on particularly degraded sites. A successful control effort begins with a well-thought out plan of attack. Elements of a plan

should include:

• A map of the phragmites in the area; note age and density of stands, and identify of any native stands • An inventory of any high value features, including rare plants, animals or communities that may require special protection • An inventory of site conditions, include sources of nutrient or road salt run-off, fill dirt, and other invasive species that might be targeted simultaneously • Coordination with other landowners • Treatment plan, including techniques to be used, herbicide, any adjuvants, timing, etc.

• Ideally, some method for removing dead phragmites, whether by prescribed fire or mowing • A monitoring plan • Designated resources for treatment of any resprouts or new infestations It is important to determine whether any of the state endangered, threatened or special concern species occur in the area you plan to treat and to take appropriate measures to avoid negative impacts to these species. You may consult Michigan Natural Features Inventory for assistance.

If rare plants occur in areas with non-native phragmites, use appropriate measures to protect these plants from the potential negative impacts of the treatment.

Generally, hand-swiping is safer than spraying herbicide in these situations, and glyphosate based products are less mobile in the soil than imazapyr.

Many animals are also vulnerable to activities associated with the treatment of non-native phragmites (i.e. herbicide use, trampling, cutting, burning, etc). Reptiles and amphibians may be particularly at risk. Specific recommendations to

ensure their well-being are available at:


4Natural communitiesof Michigan’s northern coastlines

5 Alvar Alvar grasslands are open landscapes where grasses and sedges grow on flat limestone bedrock. Most trees are unable to survive because of thin soils and seasonal extremes such as spring flooding and summer drought. Alvar is among the rarest habitats in the world, known only from the Great Lakes, the Baltic region of Europe and northwestern Ireland.

Many uncommon species occur in these grasslands, including species of the Arctic tundra and the Great Plains prairies. Rare species include dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris), Houghton’s goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii), and grizzled skipper (Pyrgus wyandot).

Abstract http://web4.msue.msu.edu/mnfi/abstracts/ecology/Alvar.pdf

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6 Great Lakes marsh Great Lakes marshes occur along their shorelines and connecting channels. In the Straits region, they are found mostly in protected embayments and are characterized by grasses, sedges and rushes in the shallow waters at the lake edge. They provide important habitat for insects, fish, waterfowl, water birds and mammals. During spring migration, terrestrial migratory songbirds feed on midges as the insects mature and emerge from the water. Rare species include marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris) and common moorhen (Galinula chloropus). In southern Michigan, many Great Lakes marshes in western Lake Erie, the St. Clair Delta and Saginaw Bay are now dominated by phragmites.

Abstract http://web4.msue.msu.edu/mnfi/abstracts/ecology/Great_lakes_marsh.pdf

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7 Limestone bedrock glade Limestone bedrock glade consists of an herb and graminoiddominated plant community with scattered clumps of stunted trees and shrubs growing on thin soil over limestone or dolomite. Typically areas of bedrock are exposed. Mosses, lichens, and algae can be abundant on the exposed limestone bedrock or thin organic soils. Seasonal flooding and summer drought maintain the open conditions.

These glades provide habitat for rare species including dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris), butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris), Houghton’s goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii) and grizzled skipper (Pyrgus wyandot).

Abstract http://web4.msue.msu.edu/mnfi/abstracts/ecology/Limestone_bedrock_glade.pdf

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10 Rare plants of Michigan’s northern coastlines 11 Pumpell’s brome Bromus pumpellianus Status: Threatened Global and state rank: G5T4/S2 Recognition Pumpell’s brome is a medium-sized grass of northern dunes, ranging from 0.5-1.0 m in height. Its leaves are hairy on the upper side, and its stem nodes also have long hairs. It has well- developed auricles at the top of the leaf sheath, which distinguish it from the related non-native species smooth brome (B. inermis).

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