Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

The Worst Invasive Plant in Ontario Wetlands

On Thursday, November 15th, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists 2018-19 series “Earth, Water, Wind and Fire” continues with a presentation by wildlife biologist Ken Allison, local Lanark County resident and former President of MVFN and the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club.

When Ken spoke about roadside and aquatic invasive plants in his “Green Aliens in Lanark County” presentation in 2012, invasive Phragmites, did not seem to be on this invasive plant expert’s radar.

However, during his upcoming presentation, Ken will focus on this plant, (Phragmites australis subspecies australis), one of the worst aquatic invasive plant species there is. He will explore the features of a healthy wetland, before leading us into the unhealthy realm of a wetland invaded by these disruptive plants!

Learn from Ken how to identify this plant and distinguish it from native Phragmites (Phragmites australis subspecies americanus) and other invasive plants, and how to deal with them on your property.

Ontario Phragmites Working Group: “When attempting to manage and control invasive Phragmites, it is important to first determine if the plants you are managing are the native or invasive strain of Phragmites. Native Phragmites is an important component of a healthy wetland ecosystem. It grows in marshes and unlike the invasive strain, does not typically develop into dense monocultures or degrade habitat quality.”

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and other groups are helping to map the distribution of this invasive species in Ontario. For more information visit https://www.eddmaps.org/ontario/

Ken and Phragmites. photo Ruth Allison

 

Speaker: Ken Allison, Wildlife Biologist

Presentation: The Worst Invasive Plant in Ontario Wetlands

Date:   Thursday, November 15, 2018

Time:  7:00 p.m. for socializing & refreshments, 7:30 for program

Place:  Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte

Admission is free for MVFN members. There is an admission fee of $5 for non-members. No charge for youth 18 and under. We always welcome new members.

For further information, please contact Cliff Bennett MVFN Program Chair at or 613-798-6295.

 

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MVFN Invasive Aquatic Plants Survey

NOTE: the new date for this planned event did not reach the level of registration required, and has been cancelled.

Paddle the creeks and bays of Mississippi Lake and take part in year two of this project. Working in conjunction with the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) and the Mississippi Lakes Association (MLA), we will take part in a survey of invasive aquatic plants.

Our aim is to canoe all seven creeks which flow into the lake, collect samples of five known aquatic invasive species and report back to the MVCA headquarters.

Date: Saturday, July 30th (rain date August 13)

Time: 8:30 AM – approx. 2:30 PM

Meet at: Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority headquarters, 10970 Highway 7, Carleton Place, for donuts and coffee, orientation and reporting kits. Crews will be assigned to a specific creek area.

Bring: You will need the usual required canoe equipment, lunch, a pen or pencil, sunscreen etc

To register, or for more information please contact David Garcia at  613-256-6299  or via email  If you have a canoe and need a partner, or if you would like to partner with someone who has a canoe, let us know at the same time.

photo B. Boyd

photo B. Boyd

Schedule:

  • 8:30 AM meet at MVCA for coffee and donuts (MLA has budget for this)
  • Presentation on Invasive Species by MVCA specialists, information about how to fill out forms, etc.
  • Handing out of kits, directions to paddling access points, etc.
  • Leave between 9:15 and 9:30 AM
  • Return to MVCA around 1:15- 1:30 PM, have a late lunch (bring your own)
  • Staff will sort through the results and do a quick summary presentation of results.
  • End around 2:30 PM
  • A comprehensive report will be written up and sent to all participants, and a copy will be published in Mississippi Belle Online
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Mississippi Lake Invasive Plants Monitoring

On July 10th, 2016, members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists participated in an invasive aquatic plant  monitoring exercise on Mississippi Lake.  In the morning participants attended a short presentation, at the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority office, on invasive plant species possibly present in the lake. They were also briefed on sampling protocol and were provided with field kits.  Participants then split into groups and went to five different locations on Mississippi Lake (Kinch Bay, Kings Bay, McGibbons Bay, McEwen Bay and Innisville Rapids) to search for invasive species. Four species of invasive plants were found, including Curly-leaf pondweed, European frogbit, Purple loosestrife and Invasive Phragmites.  This should not be considered an exhaustive list of all invasive plants that occur in Mississippi Lake.  The purpose of this monitoring exercise was to increase awareness through community involvement and to hopefully inspire similar initiatives in the future.

Invasive Plants Found
Curly-Leaf Pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) Locations: McEwen Bay & Innisville Rapids Abundance: ScatteredCurly-leaf pondweed European Frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae)Locations: McGibbons Bay, McEwen Bay, Kings Bay, Kinch Bay Abundance: Scattered; Dense in Kinch BayFrogbit
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)Location: McGibbons Bay Abundance: Single PlantPurple loosestrife Invasive Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis)Location: Innisville RapidsAbundance: Single PlantInvasive Phragmites

Volunteers also returned with samples of native plants, including coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum sibiricum), sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata), common waterweed (Elodea canadensis), common duckweed (Lemna minor), star duckweed (Lemna trisulca), flat-stemmed pondweed (Potamogeton zosteriformis), water marigold (Bidens beckii), spotted joe-pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum) and pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata).  In many instances, northern watermilfoil and coontail were mistaken for European watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), and common waterweed was mistaken for hydrilla.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks go, to Jim Tye of the Mississippi Lake Association for organizing the event and bringing all parties together; to Cliff Bennett and David Garcia of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, for promoting the initiative within their organization; and to the Mississippi Lake landowners who allowed volunteers to launch canoes from their properties.

 

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MVFN Conducts Another Ash Tree Survey in Almonte Ward

August 13, 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists Conducts Ash Tree Survey in Almonte Ward

As many know now, the invasion of  Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilis planipennis) in the Ottawa area is decimating all of the area’s ash trees. Thousands have now died in Ottawa and the invasion is moving our way. Prediction is that we will lose all of our ash trees in ten years.

In order to begin planning and budgeting to cut and replace our local ash trees, the Town of Mississippi Mills Public Works has asked MVFN to assist by conducting a survey of all ash trees on municipal property in Almonte Ward. MVFN has already surveyed all of the parks and other public lands in the municipality and this Saturday, August 16th , the town streets will be done.

Using a blitz format, teams of three or four will fan out to designated sections and count every ash tree on public streets, estimating size and condition. They will not be counting trees on private property nor on the County of Lanark roads passing through town. The blitz begins at 8:30 am with team members assembling in the parking lot at Equator Coffee. Team members are MVFN members who have already registered for the event.

For more information, please contact Cliff Bennett, 613-256-5013 or email at .

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Earthworms: Whose Friends are They? presented by Paul Gray, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Opening a can of worms – Lecture report written by Linda Mosquin

As a gardener I have dug up many earthworms in our flower and vegetable gardens and have long considered the earthworm to be a friend, always marveling at its ability to break up, aerate and improve the soil. Or, as our Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist’s speaker Dr. Paul Gray of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources(OMNR) more largely described them, as “. . . ecological engineers famous for their ability to ingest and integrate soils through different layers, for their contribution to agricultural productivity, for their role as food for wildlife and for use by anglers as fish bait.” Many animals eat earthworms…. think crows, gulls, skunks, flickers, robins and others. In Ontario the business of exporting worms to the United States is valued at 110 million dollars a year and involves a migrant work force picking worms at night. And with agricultural fields and pastures in Ontario using more than 5 million hectares of soil, the earthworm would appear to be a seemingly benevolent creature.

3 Worm Press Story photo 2 (960x1280)

Indeed, the lowly earthworm helps the economy, but as Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) Paul Gray recently told an MVFN audience, the evolving earthworm story in North America is much more complex. He is co-author of the 2012 report: Implications of a Potential Range Expansion of Invasive Earthworms in Ontario’s Forested Ecosystems.

Indeed, the earthworm helps the economy, but as our speaker pointed out, with warmer climate change due to humans burning fossil fuels, the evolving earthworm story in Canada/North America is more complex and darker. Native Ontario earthworms, where they existed, are believed to have been eradicated with the Wisconsin glaciers 10,000 years ago and southern native species did not manage to re-colonize this area. Thus our forests developed in the absence of earthworms until they arrived with soils (for ballast) and plants brought here by European settlers. So at present 17 European non-natives and two North American (non-native to Ontario) earthworm species thrive in the province. Some of these earthworms are invasive and with our warming climate it is becoming more apparent that there is a potential for range expansion of these worms in Ontario’s forested ecosystems. Already much damage has been done to the forest habitat around the Great Lakes.

Gray presented a number of detailed charts depicting the warming trend for climate change in Ontario. The International Panel on Climate Change models show the warmest trends of between 9-10 degrees, in the northern latitudes, and 4-5 degrees in our area by the end of the century. Earthworms can be killed by freezing but they have developed systems to avoid this happening. As climate warms they will continue to move forward into our northern forests.

Earthworms are classified into three ecological groups, namely: endogeic, these are rich soil feeders, topsoil dwellers, have no pigmentation, make horizontal burrows, and are small (approx.7.5-12.5 cm). Epigeic earthworms are top-litter feeders and dwellers; they are pigmented, make no burrows and are the smallest (at 7.5cm). Anecic earthworms are larger (12.5-20 cm) earthworms which are litter and soil feeders and dwellers, dorsally pigmented, and make extensive permanent vertical burrows.

Given the different strata of the soil the different earthworms groups reside in and their burrowing habits, it is no surprise that the impact on forests from earthworms is greatest when all three kinds of earthworms are present. As they move into a forest one can see the edge of the healthy, rich, thick horizon zone meeting the edge of the ‘denuded’ soil caused by earthworms eating up much of the available organic material. Organic layers are lost, protozoa are eaten, micro-arthropod eggs are damaged and micro-fauna are preyed upon. Plant communities are weakened and often destroyed. Invasive earthworms do most damage to hardwood forests, such as those consisting of maple, basswood, red oak, poplar, or birch species. So a forest that once had a lush understory ends with a single species of native herb and essentially no tree seedlings. Over time (spreading 5 to ten meters a year) earthworms change the forest soils from a fungal to a bacterial dominated system which hastens the conversion of leaf litter to mineral compounds, starving the plants of organic nutrients. This change in soil eliminates seedlings, ferns, and wildflowers. There is evidence emerging that changes caused by alien earthworms can even eventually affect small mammal, bird and amphibian populations and increase the impacts of herbivores like white-tailed deer. Invasive plants such as buckthorn and mustard garlic can establish a roothold in a diminished ecosystem. These species reduce and destroy habitat for native species and are a serious threat to biodiversity and the health of our forests. Once established, earthworms are virtually impossible to eradicate.

Much of Paul Gray’s presentation on earthworms is based on American information since most of the research has been done there, although one of the best known books on earthworms, “The Earthworms (Lumbricidae and Sparganophilidae) of Ontario” (1977) was written by a Canadian, John W. Reynolds.

Gray described the findings from a multi-species invasion of earthworms at a site in Timmons he worked on in 2011. Nineteen species were identified at this site. Along with other researchers, he has developed a ranking system for the risk posed by these species as a preliminary ‘Invasion Index’ for earthworms in Ontario. Categories included in the ranking system are abundance, distribution, reproduction, transportability as bait, most northerly isotherm (temperature) and pH tolerance. Earthworms like a neutral pH but can exist in a wide range of acidic soil. As the soil becomes less acidic they will find it easier to establish themselves. The species were ranked low, medium or high for invasion potential. The full details of their findings are contained in the OMNR report released in 2012: “Implications of a Potential Range Expansion of Invasive Earthworms in Ontario’s Forested Ecosystems: A Preliminary Vulnerability Analysis” which Gray co-authored with others and which was released in 2012. The speaker had copies of this excellent report at the lecture and it is also available online at the OMNR website http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/ClimateChange/Publication/STDPROD_092882.html.

How do earthworms travel into forested areas in Ontario? With human help of course! Fishermen dumping bait near forested areas, gardeners moving compost, road building, or ATV tire-treads or truck tire-treads which have adult worms and cocoons (egg cases), could all start an earthworm invasion into forested areas. There are some simple things you can do to prevent their further spread. For example, people should take unused fishing bait home and freeze the container for at least a week before discarding the contents, avoid dumping compost anywhere except in your own garden, and wash ATV or other soil-holding vehicle tires before transporting the vehicle. In Minnesota, where extensive research on earthworms has been done it is illegal to dump worm bait.

More research in Ontario on managing invasive earthworms, especially with our warming climate, would be useful. Regulation and education could help prevent alien earthworms from invading Ontario forests. Another route to scientific research that is very much supported by Gray is citizen science. He would be happy to help organize training and seek support for citizen groups that would like to become involved in collecting data about invasive earthworms. If you are interested in starting or joining such a group consider contacting Dr. Gray at . To help citizens become informed on earthworms there are various sites on the internet which offer additional information such as http://www.naturewatch.ca/english/wormwatch/ and http://www.nrri.umn.edu/worms/default.htm

 

3 Worm Press Story photo 1 (1280x960)

Paul Gray (right) of the Applied Research and Development Branch, OMNR, in lively discussion with MVFN President Ken Allison (left) and member Neil Carleton after his presentation on earthworms. Photo Pauline Donaldson

 

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