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    Restoring a Brackish Pond with Phragmites
    Phragmites Management Case Study

    Location and Acreage:
    Nantucket, MA | 79-Acres

    Project Timeframe: 
    September 2016 to Present

    Project Manager:
    Colin Gosselin, Environmental Scientist

    Key Staff:
    James Lacasse, Environmental Scientist
    Drew Kelosis, Aquatic Specialist

    Site Description:
    This pond is a salt/brackish pond running southwest to northeast near the western end of Nantucket. With a surface area of 79 acres, the pond is one of the largest waterbodies on the Island. The pond is relatively shallow at just 4-6 ft on average and frequently suffers from poor water quality and prolific native weed growth.

    Scope of Work:
    cove-phragmitiesThe specific area of interest for this project was a cove at the southern end of the pond. The 3-acre “U” shaped area suffered from dense Phragmites growth along the entire shoreline. Over the last decade, residents of the pond have watched the Phragmites effectively take over the shoreline to a point where some believed control was unachievable.

    A local Notice of intent was filed on behalf of the pond’s association. No herbicide applications had previously been granted for use on or within surrounding wetlands or waterbodies on the Island. Through countless hours of research, the Nantucket Conservation Commission granted approval of a pilot program in 2015 that paved the way for the project.

    The main objective of this project was controlling the Phragmites in the cove within the pond using a foliar spray of systemic herbicide with crop oil-based surfactant to enhance herbicide attachment and penetration to the target plants. Treatments were scheduled in late August and early September which allows the herbicide to translocate into the root system while the Phragmites is preparing to overwinter.

    Project Description:
    Herbicide applications were conducted using an amphibious vehicle called a Marsh Master. This low-ground pressure piece of equipment allowed the crew to access all areas of the Phragmites to ensure that maximum coverage was achieved. Two months after the initial herbicide application, the plants were cut and mulched using a rotary mower attachment for the Marsh Master. This not only facilitated access to the area moving forward, but also helped with germination and recolonization of native plant species.


    It is not uncommon to see control of ~80% – 90% within the first year, but this was not the case. Prior to treatment in 2016, a large storm produced a significant amount of salt spray in this coastal habitat that burned the foliage of the Phragmites plants. As a result, some of the plants has shut down prior to treatment, reducing the level of control to approximately 70%. In subsequent years, however, we were able to spray the plants prior to any major storm and achieved excellent results. To date 95+% of the Phragmites has been controlled throughout the designated cove area.

    Likewise, one of the many conditions on the permit was that a macroinvertebrate sampling protocol had to be done pre- and post-treatment to evaluate possible impacts from the herbicide. After the sampling rounds were examined, no significant effects were found regarding the overall abundance and diversity of macroinvertebrates, concluding that foliar glyphosate applications showed no significant impacts on their community.

    Due to the success of cove project, SOLitude now works with multiple island agencies, private landowner groups, and non-profit conservation organizations to conduct similar Phragmites management programs. Since the initial management effort at the cove, there has been an observable proliferation of native species recolonizing treated and mulched areas, including cattails (Typha spp.) and various other herbaceous wetland species indicating a true restoration of native habitat.

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