Ugly plant but great for carbon storage

Phragmites in a marshy area in Sudbury, Mass.

Phragmites in a marshy area in Sudbury, Mass.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

Then we have phragmites, an invasive plant most often called the “common reed’ . This thing grows like crazy -- to 13 feet high -- and blocks out sunlight for native marsh plants. And, as a WBUR article by Barbara Moran notes, its shed leaves create “a thick layer of wrack that keeps native plants from germinating. Its stalks clog waterways, thwarting fish travel….The roots…secrete a chemical that prevents other plants from growing, and they grow so deep they are nearly impossible to pull out.’’

Nasty, but, Ms. Moran reports, the “Smithsonian Environmental Research Center found that the very traits that make phragmites a tough invader – larger plants, deeper roots, higher density –enable it to store more carbon in marshy peat. ‘’ As climate change races forward, carbon storage becomes a bigger part of the ecosystem equation.

So the question arises: Should phragmites be planted in some places as part of a big program of natural carbon sequestration? It’s the need for biodiversity versus the need to slow manmade global warming.

To read the WBUR piece, please hit this link.