Microbes and Ecosystem Function: Innovative Directions for Invasive Phragmites Management

Daniel D. Engel
Dan Engel is a biologist working with Lynxnet contracting for the U.S. Geological Survey—Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Currently, he is contributing to research on alternative control strategies for Phragmites australis, such as harnessing plant-microbe interactions and using gene silencing technology. He received his Bachelor’s of Science from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he studied biology and environmental studies. After several years working as an educator in Central America and Wisconsin, he went back to school at the University of Michigan and received his Master’s of Science from the School of Natural Resources and Environment where he studied conservation ecology and environmental informatics. In his free time, Dan enjoys birding, fishing, and playing soccer.
Other presenters/researchers: 
Wesley A. Bickford, US Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center & University of Michigan; Keith Clay, Indiana University; Kurt P. Kowalski, US Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center; James White, Rutgers University

Invasive plants are a global problem and require significant funding to manage. Phragmites australis (hereafter Phragmites) is a high priority for resource managers as it continues to invade wetland habitats, creating dense stands that impair wetland functions, reduce property values, and limit recreational area access. A growing body of literature indicates that microbes (e.g., fungi, bacteria) and their symbiotic relationships with plants contribute to invasions. Evidence suggests that microbial interactions benefit Phragmites by enhancing nutrient processing and tolerance to disturbance. However, many aspects of plant-microbe interactions and the roles they play in invasion remain unclear. This presentation summarizes the efforts of the Collaborative for Microbial Symbiosis and Phragmites Management to promote the study of plant-microbe interactions and the development of microbial-based control strategies for Phragmites and other invasives. This presentation also outlines several research questions and an agenda for future work on applied techniques and technologies that reduce Phragmites competitiveness.

Poster Division: