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Great Lakes Article:

Invasive reed taking over beaches
By Libby Peters
Port Elgin Shoreline Beacon
Published November 22, 2006

An alien plant species known as common reed is invading areas of the Lake Huron shoreline and causing concern for the Town of Saugeen Shores and its residents.

Citizens and members of the municipality fear the rapid growth of the reed and the height of its annual shoots are jeopardizing the beachfront.

An estimated two to three metres of the sandy sections are being lost per year at the current rate of increase. Common reed can also reach a height of up to four metres, raising concern that views of the waterfront could eventually be obscured.

Director of Community Services, Mike Myatt, said he has received numerous complaints from citizens concerned with the appearance of the species, wondering what it is and how the town is responding.
“Walking the beaches, people see a fairly attractive plant blowing in the wind and they may not immediately realize its impact,” he said, explaining that in the last three to four years, stretches of waterfront 18 metres deep have been overwhelmed by the plant.

“If this is not addressed in the short term, it will become a serious problem,” Myatt said.

Left unchallenged, the reed could overtake the majority of remaining beachfront in the next four years: a single plant spreads at a rate of one to two metres per year.

Coastal resources manager at the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation (LHCCC), Geoff Peach, said although the reed has been creeping in for some time, in the last two years it has become more aggressive.

“It’s cutting off movement of sand and the concern is it could affect the ecology of the dune system,” Peach said.

Common reed is overtaking plants that are native to the coastline, Peach said, and natural grasses that should exist – ones that animal species rely on – are being displaced.

Peach has secured funding from the federal government to address the situation. He has established three test sites in Saugeen Shores to investigate options for controlling the plant. They are located at Goble’s Grove where one site has been mowed and covered with plastic, leaving plant materials underneath. A second site at Eidt’s Grove has been mowed and covered with plastic with plant materials moved off-site while the third site, also at Eidt’s Grove, has been mowed with plant materials left on the ground.

These sites will be assessed in early spring to determine the most appropriate measures for handling the invasive plant.

Peach said through yearly cutting the root system should starve itself and prevent regeneration of the reed; however, it could take three to five years before the plants have disappeared from the waterfront entirely.

Pesticide use is not an option due to the plants’ proximity to the lake.
Peach said LHCCC is working closely with the municipality to control the situation, and added that removal of the plants must be done “carefully and systematically” to avoid making the situation worse.

Several local organizations have joined together to form an action committee to outline potential solutions for the removal of common reed.

Vice president of the Port Elgin/Saugeen Beachers’ Association Larry Main said the committee hopes to spread the word about the problem, but added that residents should wait for instructions before attempting to remove the plant on their own.

“It’s important to take a uniform approach,” Main said. He added that several residents have already volunteered their help.

“We’ve got to try to control (common reed) here with one sole purpose, and that is to preserve the waterline,” Main said.

Main and Myatt agree that the community will need to support the effort come spring by helping to rake and remove the plant from the three sites.

For now, Myatt said, residents should listen for further information on a final plan to resolve the

“If we lose our sand beaches to this invasive plant, that’s a huge blow to Saugeen Shores,” Myatt said. “We’re a tourist town, and our waterfronts are the jewels of our community.”



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