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Parker River Wildlife Refuge
with Frank Drauszewski

Dr Gregg Moore and Frank Drauszewski explore the concerns over Phragmites on the Great Marsh from the perspective a the Parker River Federal Wildlife Refuge, first established in 1942 to preserve the largest and most important marsh ecosystems between New Jersey and Canada.

Frank and Gregg talk about Phragmites appearance in unexpected places in the refuge and how they rely on many organizations to help battle the invasive reeds.

Session Date Rough Edit Transcript Tight Edit Youtube Posting
8/22/13 9/2/13 1/17 2/4 2/9

small stands of Phragmites in the Great Marsh
Dr Moore documenting salinity near small stands of Phragmites in central areas of the Great Marsh.
Hello, I'm Dr. Gregg Moore, Research Professor at the University of New Hampshire and I'm here with Frank D.

Well, hello everyone. I am Frank D. And I'm the Deputy Refuge Manager of this beautiful place. This is Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

The salt marsh is being threatened right now. And it's being threaten by a number of invasive plants. Phragmites is probably our number one enemy here on the salt marsh. And there are a number of others, but I think we're going to focus on Phragmites today.

A little bit about myself. I've been with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service almost 34 years now. And Parker River for 21 years. So I really have seen some changes over that time. And some of those changes are the invasive that have come into the salt marsh. Things that we're trying to control.

What are the key wildlife benefits to Great Marsh that we are trying to protect?

Well, I mean the Great Marsh is the largest contiguous salt marsh north of Long Island. It's approximately 20,000 acres and its a diverse habitat, as you know and as I know, there are a lot of visitors that come here to take advantage of the birding opportunities. It's a very diverse habitat. There is so much bang for the buck out here. There are so many species that benefit, from fin fish, to shell fish, to invertebrates, you name it. The species out here are totally dependent upon this habitat type. It's critical for those species to continue. It also provides a lot of benefits for us as a species, also.

If you were to see a redwing black bird in a Phragmites patch, I think we've all see that, how is that different from what we want in a native marsh system?

Again, I'm going to go back to the diversity. If Phragmites were the only plant out here a lot of these species would not be able to use this habitat. Marsh sparrows, which are in jeopardy, they nest out here, they are a salt marsh obligate. Which means they spend their entire life cycle out here in the salt marsh. If this entire salt marsh were Phragmites, they wouldn't be able to use this habitat. I think that's a good example.

The Parker River Refuge is noted as one of the 10 most popular birding spots in the country. And we have people who come here specifically just to go birding. We have a birds list that has over 300 species on it, that have been documented over the years. We have regulars that come here to see birds and they are always seeing something special. This place is pretty special for people who really like to bird, it's something that's important here in the salt marsh to maintain so these species can continue. I believe, totally, that if the Phragmites were to take control of the salt marsh you wouldn't see near as many species out here and that would be sad.

In the winter time, a lot of folks come down here to see snowy owls, rough-legged hawks, other raptors that appear here in the winter time. So every season of the year there are special times. In the spring, obviously, is the warbler migration and we also get the tree swallows that come in the tens of thousands. They come in a less bit less in the spring then in the fall, like right now, we get tree swallows by the tens of thousands. And of course in the fall we get the water fowl migrations. Which is another important aspect of the Refuge, to provide areas for water fowl hunters to do their thing. The Refuge has been a very important habitat for water fowl in their migration and the sportsmen here really use this area to hunt water fowl which is a wildlife dependent activity and something that Fish and Wildlife Service totally supports.

I actually find I'm running into fishermen out here. What are they going after, what's the big sell?

This is a real popular spot for surf fishing. They are going after, the number one species is stripped bass. And the salt marsh acts as a nursery for striped bass, for a lot of fin fish, in fact. And that's one of the most important things that a salt marsh serves is as a nursery for fin fish and shell fish. We talked about the fisherman, you also have shell fishermen, that dig clams, which is an important activity for the clammers and people who like to eat clams. And these are sustainable activities so long as we provide a healthy environment, a healthy habitat.

We typically see Phragmites coming in from the upland, invading from that dryer, or fresher upland edge and making it's way into the marsh. Great Marsh is different, can you address that?

You're absolutely right, I mean you see it along the upland edges because of the fresh water that is coming off the impervious areas and other areas diluting the salt water so it gets a foothold there. And then we're finding out here in the open salt marsh which is unusual. There are areas that all you see for miles is Phragmites and those areas, I don't think, you know, they are beyond help. There are other areas all over the east coast that, you know, have these situations.

Could you talk a little bit about what some of the longer term solutions are and perhaps how salinity plays a role on this landscape.

I think no one knows better than you Gregg, what salinity is able to do and not do out here. Like I said earlier, what we're doing is a short term control effort. I hope we're not doing the same things twenty five years from now and spraying these stands of Phragmites. I hope by then that we've come to a longer term solution that is self sustaining. And one way we are looking to approach that is by doing some modeling. Working with the Core of Engineers. And working with academia. And modeling some of the activities that take place out here. The salinity. The different hydrodynamics that go on out here in the salt marsh. And some of the things that we've identified are constrictions. I mean, the constrictions are probably the number one reason why salinity isn't what we think it should be, in some of these northern portions. And also fresh water run off from the mainland. We're getting run off from impervious surfaces, and all sorts of things like that, that are contributing to the lower salinity levels. So if we can figure that part out I think that maybe we could figure something out for the long term solution.

This is such an important area, for a number of reason that we've already talked about that, you know, this area is certainly worth protecting. Number one, it's a National Wildlife Refuge and, you know, we're going to protect it and we're going to do everything we can. But we can't do it alone we're going to need help from the community. And hopefully we're going to come to that long term solution some day.

I think we have a good working model here and it all stems from the partnerships and the ability to work with other groups and agencies and non-government organizations. I think that's key, that's the key, if anyone want to take-away from this, that's the message, work with your partners and work with others. There are a lot of people out there that care.

Thanks so much Frank for taking the time and thanks to you for watching Danger in the Reeds.

I'd also like to thank you folks, it's all of us together, working together to try to control these invasive plants and protect this wonderful habitat. Thank you very much.


Danger in the Reeds is being produced by Staddles Productions
with the help of Dr Gregg Moore, Peter Phippen and Geoff Walker.

We would all like to express our graditude to our many Kickstarter supporters
without whom this project would not be possible.

Rick Hydren  ~ Office: 978-948-3346, Cell: 508-954-1298
PO Box 715, Rowley MA 01969


Portrait Photography ~ Real Estate Photography