Spartina, Marine Invasive Plants in Baynes Sound

What’s wrong with this picture taken in the Courtney Estuary?

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Read on to find out.

This group is standing in the middle of a well established patch of Spartina patens (Salt Meadow Cordgrass) located in the Comox Estuary. A few weeks ago, Brian Kingzett, Sarah Dudas (our new research scientist) and Laura-Jean Kelly (from the VIU Horticulture Program) joined members of the Vancouver Island Spartina Working Group to learn about Spartina and control measures in BC.

Spartina species are non-native salt-tolerant grasses that grow in intertidal salt marshes and mudflats.    Four invasive Species threaten our shorelines: Spartina anglica (English cordgrass), S. densiflora (dense-flowered cordgrass),  S. patens (salt meadow cordgrass) and S. Alternaflora (smooth cordgrass). All except S. alternaflora have been found in British Columbia.

Left unchecked, Spartina spp have the ability to out compete native marsh plants, spread across intertidal mudflats and create vast “Spartina meadows”. This means a loss of vital habitat and food for fish crabs and shellfish and shorebirds and waterfowl. In Washington State the shellfish industry has been threatened by these species, in Willapa Bay alone S. alternaflora have taken over more than 11,000 acres and millions are being spent to control it.

S. Patens and S. densiflora have been found in Baynes Sound and the Spartina Working Group is working to identify and eradicate where possible these grasses. This is being organized by working group members such as Ducks Unlimited, Nature Trust of BC, The Nature Conservancy, Project Watershed, BC Ministry of Environment, DFO Habitat, consultants and other NGO’s. To read the 2009 progress report from the BC Spartina Working Group download here.

We hope to assist Spartina control measures in Baynes Sound by helping with mapping and identification, facilitating communications with the shellfish industry and using our research vessel the “Chetlo” to carry mapping and eradication teams.

For more information about Spartina in BC Check out www.spartina.ca

Claire de la Salle, Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited Conservations Specialist and organizer Claire de la Salle.

Spartina patens

A clump of  Spartina Patens – note the rhizomes on roots which make Spartina difficult to eradicate.

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Spartina expert Gary Williams points out identification techniques for Spartina Patens

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During the summer S. patens is more easily identifiable by its red seed heads.

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