Eastern Michigan, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge use high tech tools to fight invasive plant species

by Pamela Young, Published October 22, 2010

The spread of invasive species is a global problem that significantly impacts both the economy and environment. Stopping these ecological invaders remains a challenge to scientists and managers who are developing new control strategies.

Eastern Michigan University, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (DRIWR), recently was awarded $487,000 to expand upon previous work that evaluated the extent of the invasion of the common reed (Phragmites australis) in the refuge, quantified initial control efforts, and measured short-term effects of this plant invasion on water quality.

In the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, coastal wetlands support a number of critical ecosystem services, including wildlife and waterfowl habitat. These wetlands are threatened not only by the aggressive spread of the common reed, but also the purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and the aquatic alga (Lyngbya).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service, Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment Program, awarded the grant.

"This project is another fine example of strengthening the adaptive management of aquatic ecosystems," notes Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI).  "This project brings the cutting-edge knowledge of Eastern Michigan University researchers together with the world-class management capability of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to better manage habitats and fish and wildlife populations in North America's only international wildlife refuge."

In the coming year, EMU's Institute for Geospatial Research and Education, the Biology Department, and the Geography and Geology Department will expand the project's scope to include multiple invasive species that currently impair the refuge's economic and environmental viability.

Phase II will look at multiple problematic invasive species in the International Wildlife Refuge, and long-term assessment of the refuge's common weed and other invasive species control efforts.

These efforts will involve on-the-ground surveys, water quality analysis, as well as remote satellite detection of invasive species, mapping of their locations, and management decision support through advanced Geographic Information Systems technology. The pilot GIS portal can be viewed at - GIS portal.

"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is very fortunate to be working on this collaborative research project with EMU researchers and graduate students to better understand ecosystems processes, prioritize management efforts, evaluate effectiveness of management actions, and lay the foundation for tracking long-term changes," said Dr. John Hartig, refuge manager of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. "

"Data and information from EMU's research are already being used to control Phragmites at our Strong Unit and help track the effectiveness of wetland restoration at the Refuge Gateway and Brancheau Unit."


Pamela Young

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