A recent article by E&E News looks at the evolving opinions scientists and conservationists have of the evasive phragmites reed that came to the U.S. from Europe some 200 years ago and which has taken over many East Coast tidal marshes. The plant, which has been villainized for destroying the wildlife habitat of marshes is now being looked at more favorably as both a carbon sink and a buffer against the destruction caused by sea-level rise.
Bryn Mawr Associate Professor of Biology Thomas Mozdzer is among the experts on the plant quoted in the piece:
"People hear the word 'invasive' and assume it's all bad," said Judith Weis, a professor at Rutgers University who has spent her career comparing phragmites to the native Spartina alterniflora grass. "But what we've found is that if you value preserving marshes in the face of sea-level rise, it may be that the phragmites marshes are the only ones able to make it."
As larger plants with deeper roots, phragmites soak up two to three times as much carbon as native cordgrasses in the Chesapeake Bay, according to one study from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.
The study's author, Thomas Mozdzer, has done other research showing phragmites' deep roots enable the weed to build up soil faster than native wetland grasses. The increased elevation makes phragmites more resilient to higher tides.
"This may be the one plant that can keep pace with sea-level rise," he said, noting that could be hugely important for insulating communities from the impacts of rising seas, as well as more frequent and intense storms along the coast.
Read the entire article on the E&E site Greenwire.