Removing Invasive Phragmites

Improves Presque Isle Habitat

Removing phragmites and other invasive plants has allowed native plant communities to recover, restoring healthy habitat and enhancing opportunities for outdoor recreation.


Western Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle is an arching spit of land that juts out into Lake Erie. The beaches, dunes, and emergent wetlands that make up Presque Isle provide a rich habitat for native plants and wildlife. The 3,200 acre park supports the largest concentration of rare plants in Pennsylvania, including twig rush and whorled water milfoil, and provides crucial habitat for endangered birds such as piping plover and least bittern. Unfortunately, its location also makes Presque Isle susceptible to invasive plants such as the non-native water reed phragmites. Over the past several decades, the entire peninsula has been overtaken by invasive plants that push out native plants and severely degrade wildlife habitat. Thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Ducks Unlimited and several partners have been working to remove these invasive plants and plant native species. Workers combined hand-pulling and herbicide application to eradicate phragmites and other invasives from over 400 acres of wetland habitat. Native plants were transplanted to the treated wetlands to restore the habitat. Ducks Unlimited and its partners finished these efforts in 2018, and are currently monitoring the recovery of native plant and animal populations in the park. Going forward, they hope to expand on this project, and have already successfully applied for a grant that will enable them to treat an additional 800 acres of Presque Isle beginning in 2019.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native habitat
  • Invasive species
  • Limited outdoor recreation access


Wetland area with plants partially submerged under water

The wetland areas in Presque Isle after invasive Phragmites were removed. The newly opened habitat has allowed native plants and wildlife to return. Credit: Ducks Unlimited.

Results and Accomplishments

This project has successfully removed phragmites and other invasive plants from over 442 acres of wetland habitat, exceeding the project’s original goal of 400 acres. Removing invasives and restoring native plant communities improves land and aquatic habitat, as well as water quality. There has been anecdotal evidence that amphibian, reptile, and bird populations are recovering. Nesting pairs of piping plovers have been spotted in the park for the first time in 50 years. Improving fish and wildlife habitat has also enhanced opportunities for bird and wildlife viewing, fishing, and hunting. This increased tourism and outdoor recreation benefits the local economy.