EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 6, 2013

Fight against saltmarsh weeds gets a boost

(Continued)

Phippen said the phragmites work in the Upper Great Marsh will continue to look into a phenomenon that has occurred over the past 30 to 40 years. The level of salinity is low in portions of the area roughly between Pine Island and the Plum Island Turnpike, “and we’re not sure exactly why,” he said.

It’s a problem because phragmites thrives in a low salinity environment.

“But the rest of the marsh is pretty clean,” Phippen said. “That’s why we pay attention to this area more so than the rest of the marsh.”

Another initiative being pursued is a new technology being developed at the University of New Hampshire that will help to identify areas where phragmites is likely to grow. The handheld device measures electromagnetic induction. When the data is studied, it can show where the salinity levels favor the growth of phragmites. That information would be important in determining where to focus attention on combatting phragmites.

“It’s sort of like finding a sweet spot where phragmites likes to grow,” Phippen said. “Knowing it would allow us to target our limited spraying dollars.”

Phippen called it a groundbreaking technology that could be a major advance in the efforts to control the weeds. Funding is still being sought for it, he said.

Phippen’s organization, along with a coalition of nonprofits and government agencies called the Great Marsh Revitalization Task Force, applied for the grant and will manage the money, according to the state.

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