The Erie Canal was constructed in 1825, creating a species pathway from the Atlantic Ocean and the St. Lawrence River into Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes. For a while, Niagara Falls acted as a barrier to keeping the invasives from getting into Lake Erie. In 1829, the Welland Canal was constructed and enlarged in 1919 to link Lake Ontario to the upper Great Lakes. Then in 1959 the St. Lawrence Seaway opened creating an invasive pathway from around the globe. Some invasive plants and animals entered the Great Lakes through the release of aquarium pets, fish aquaculture operations, bait bucket releases, intentional releases like the common carp that went awry.
Controlling Phragmites, the invasive plant we see along the highways and shorelines of Lake Erie, is challenging. The root system of this perennial, aggressive wetland grass is dense and the tall, thick stands snuff out native cattails and reduce habitat for turtles, frogs, birds, and more.
Property owners and managers can control Phragmites. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, by using an integrated pest management approach that includes an initial herbicide treatment followed by mechanical removal (e.g., cutting, mowing) and annual maintenance. For large areas with dense stands of Phragmites, prescribed burning used after herbicide treatment can provide additional control and ecological benefits over mechanical removal. Early detection is key to preventing large dense stands and is also more cost efficient. Permits may be required for Phragmites treatment.