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      Ecosystem services of Phragmites in North America with emphasis on habitat functions


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          In North America, Phragmites australis (common reed) has generally been regarded as a weed to be controlled. This paper shows that Phragmites-dominated vegetation provides important non-habitat ecosystem services (e.g., carbon sequestration, water quality maintenance) in proportion to its biomass, and many habitat functions for other organisms that vary depending on characteristics of the vegetation and surrounding landscape. Phragmites has both detrimental and beneficial functions; therefore decision-makers must clarify their management goals and understand the local situation. Extensive dense Phragmites may be managed to optimize ecosystem services by partial removal of biomass for a bioenergy feedstock.


          Phragmites australis (common reed) is widespread in North America, with native and non-native haplotypes. Many ecologists and wetland managers have considered P. australis a weed with little value to the native biota or human society. I document important ecosystem services of Phragmites including support for many common and rare species of plants and animals. This paper is based on an extensive review of the ecology and natural history literature, discussions with field workers, and observations in 13 US states and one Canadian province during the past 40 years. Phragmites sequesters nutrients, heavy metals and carbon, builds and stabilizes soils, and creates self-maintaining vegetation in urban and industrial areas where many plants do not thrive. These non-habitat ecosystem services are proportional to biomass and productivity. Phragmites was widely used by Native Americans for many purposes; the most important current direct use is for the treatment of wastes. Most of the knowledge of non-habitat ecosystem services is based on studies of P. australis haplotype M (an Old World haplotype). Phragmites also has habitat functions for many organisms. These functions depend on the characteristics of the landscape, habitat, Phragmites stand, species using Phragmites and life history element . The functions that Phragmites provides for many species are optimal at lower levels of Phragmites biomass and extent of stands. Old World Phragmites, contrary to many published statements, as well as North American native Phragmites, provide valuable ecosystem services including products for human use and habitat functions for other organisms. Phragmites stands may need management (e.g. thinning, fragmentation, containment or removal) to create or maintain suitable habitat for desired species of animals and plants.

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          Positive interactions among plants

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            Cryptic invasion by a non-native genotype of the common reed, Phragmites australis, into North America.

            Cryptic invasions are a largely unrecognized type of biological invasion that lead to underestimation of the total numbers and impacts of invaders because of the difficulty in detecting them. The distribution and abundance of Phragmites australis in North America has increased dramatically over the past 150 years. This research tests the hypothesis that a non-native strain of Phragmites is responsible for the observed spread. Two noncoding chloroplast DNA regions were sequenced for samples collected worldwide, throughout the range of Phragmites. Modern North American populations were compared with historical ones from herbarium collections. Results indicate that an introduction has occurred, and the introduced type has displaced native types as well as expanded to regions previously not known to have Phragmites. Native types apparently have disappeared from New England and, while still present, may be threatened in other parts of North America.
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              Metal uptake, transport and release by wetland plants: implications for phytoremediation and restoration.

              S. Weis, P Weis (2004)
              Marshes have been proposed as sites for phytoremediation of metals. The fate of metals within plant tissues is a critical issue for effectiveness of this process. In this paper we review studies that investigate the effects of plants on metals in wetlands. While most of these marsh plant species are similar in metal uptake patterns and in concentrating metals primarily in roots, some species retain more of their metal burden in below ground structures than other species, which redistribute a greater proportion of metals into above ground tissues, especially leaves. Storage in roots is most beneficial for phytostabilization of the metal contaminants, which are least available when concentrated below ground. Plants may alter the speciation of metals and may also suffer toxic effects as a result of accumulating them. Metals in leaves may be excreted through salt glands and thereby returned to the marsh environment. Metal concentrations of leaf and stem litter may become enriched in metals over time, due in part to cation adsorption or to incorporation of fine particles with adsorbed metals. Several studies suggest that metals in litter are available to deposit feeders and, thus, can enter estuarine food webs. Marshes, therefore, can be sources and well as sinks for metal contaminants. Phragmites australis, an invasive species in the northeast U.S. sequesters more metals below ground than the native Spartina alterniflora, which also releases more via leaf excretion. This information is important for the siting and use of wetlands for phytoremediation as well as for marsh restoration efforts.

                Author and article information

                AoB Plants
                AoB Plants
                AoB Plants
                Oxford University Press
                10 April 2013
                : 5
                : plt008
                Hudsonia , PO Box 5000, Annandale, NY 12504, USA
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author's e-mail address: kiviat@ 123456bard.edu
                Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 3 August 2012
                : 17 January 2013
                Page count
                Pages: 29
                Invited Reviews
                SPECIAL ISSUE: Phragmites australis in North America and Europe

                Plant science & Botany
                bio-energy,ecosystem services,habitat functions,invasive plants,management,methodology,non-native species,phragmites


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