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Tackling a tough invasive weedTackling a tough invasive weed

Beating spartina takes a concerted effort with Washington program.

May 18, 2017

2 Min Read
TOUGH TO STOP: Spartina is an invasive, noxious weed that requires a range of tactics to get under control. Washington state has targeted specific areas for action in 2017.John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy, Bugwood.org

While farmers in the front range or away from the saltwater areas of Washington may not think about spartina and its impact on those areas, control is part of the state's comprehensive effort to stop invaders. The Washington State Department of Agriculture is heading up the 2017 effort to treat and remove spartina, an aggressive noxious weed. The effort will start in June and continue through November.

WSDA is undertaking survey and eradication efforts in many areas including Grays Harbor, Hood Canal, Willapa Bay, Puget Sound, the north and west sides of the Olympic Peninsula and at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Also known as cordgrass, spartina can disrupt the ecosystems of native saltwater estuaries. If left uncontrolled, the weed outcompetes native vegetation. Where once ecologically healthy mudflats thrived, spartina can come in and create weed-filled meadows. This can destroy important migratory shorebird and waterfowl habitat, and it boosts the threat of flooding. Also, it can hurt the state's shellfish industry.

WSDA reports some success in 2016, where spartina was eradicated from six sites. That brings the total number of previously infested sites now declared as eradicated to 49, which is 28% of all spartina sites tracked by the program.

This is a 14-year effort that has seen the state's infested areas reduced from a high of more than 9,000 solid acres in 2003 to about 5 solid acres this year.

Since 1995, WSDA has served as the lead state agency for spartina eradication. This is a cooperative effort that includes local, state, federal and tribal governments; universities; interested groups; and private landowners. This diverse group of cooperators located and treated more than 44,000 individual spartina plants.

For 2017, project partners expect to survey more than 80,000 acres of saltwater estuaries and 1,000 miles of shoreline in 12 counties. The cooperators will dig out small infestations by hand and treat larger areas with herbicides.

Jim Marra, manager of WSDA's Pest Program, noted: "Our goal is to eradicate Washington's remaining spartina infestations and prevent reinfestation of previously cleared areas. This effort has protected and restored many of the state's most productive shoreline habitats. This summer the cooperators continue the challenging work of finding and removing the thousands of spartina plants remaining in the Puget Sound and along Washington's coast."

You can learn more at agr.wa.gov/PlantsInsects/Weeds/Spartina.

Source: Washington State Department of Agriculture

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