Success seen in reducing invasive species along Lake Michigan shoreline

In the war against invasives, the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is winning battles on a number of fronts.

The Land Conservancy reports that stewardship work done over the past six years has resulted in a 100 percent eradication of what is called “common reed” or Phragmites. The giant shoreline grass has been eliminated at Wau-Ke-Na Preserve and at Warren Dunes

It will be important to remain vigilant, however. "SWMLC is aware that Phragmites and other invasive species are present on private lands nearby and we plan to continue outreach and management efforts to prevent their spread,” says SWMLC’s Stewardship Specialist Mitch Lettow.

Other eradication projects are going well, too. There has been a 50 percent reduction in garlic mustard and a more than 75 percent reduction of Japanese barberry, autumn olive, and other species of woody invasive plants on Wau-Ke-Na’s north tract.

Over the past six years, SWMLC conducted a survey of priority invasive species to determine their baseline. That was followed up by a management program at State of Michigan Parks and SWMLC Preserves from the Indiana state line to Glenn. Later in 2016 the Land Conservancy  will conduct a final survey to determine the new distributions of these invasive species, documenting changes in population sizes and gauge the effectiveness of our treatment methods.

The work was funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Services’ Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, established to protect Lake Michigan shoreline ecology through documentation and eradication of invasive plant species that threaten ecological health, beauty, and economic value.

Those funds are winding up, but SWMLC will continue invasive species monitoring and treatment efforts with its conservation district partners along the lakeshore with funds from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Invasive Species Grant Program.

From eradication to preservation

At Wau-Ke-Na Preserve, SWMLC has started to create Monarch butterfly “waystation” gardens. The Conservancy hosted a volunteer workday Aug. 13  at Wau-Ke-Na’s south tract. They established a monarch waystation that contains 100 plants with 25 species, at the entrance to the preserve, adjacent to the parking lot.
Plantings to attract Monarchs include a variety of  native plants, especially the critical milkweed for caterpillars and nectar producing wildflowers for adult butterflies. The new butterfly garden also contains lots of fall flowering plants to help the Monarchs fuel up for their autumn migration to Mexico.
“SWMLC has created and nurtured hundreds of acres of habitat with an emphasis on grassland restoration at Wau-Ke-Na,” says Lettow, “and after reviewing our plans we decided to begin a new initiative to establish a monarch waystation at Wau-Ke-Na each year for the next five years.”
Monarch butterflies were once one of the most common butterflies in the United States and Canada. In recent years, however, populations have declined precipitously, as much as 80 percent in some years.
“Monarch waystations,” Lettow says, “are one-part habitat restoration, creating both a series of native plantings and critical resources needed by the monarch butterfly and one-part education campaign, sharing the plight of this once-common species and how we can all help make a difference.”
Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Monitoring and butterfly waystation photos courtesy Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Warren Dunes and "common reed" photos courtesy WikiCommons 
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