Friday's Findings - June 4 2021

Release Date:

Linking Climate Change, Cattail Expansion, and Wetland Management

Date:  June 4, 2021 from 2-2:30 p.m. eastern time

Speaker: Sheel Bansal, Research Ecologist, USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Call in: 202-640-1187   United States, Washington DC (Toll)

Conference ID: 387 327 121#

Background: Wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region in the Great Plains are experiencing intensive changes in their carbon cycles due to drainage for agriculture, as well as from the expansion of cattail. Cattail expansion is driven, in part, by anthropogenic changes to wetland hydrology and nutrient loads, as well as from the proliferation of a hybrid taxa with native and non-native parental lineages. When wetlands are drained, stored carbon is lost back to the atmosphere, and vice versa when they are restored. When wetlands are overrun by hybrid cattail, carbon uptake in plant biomass increases, but so do methane emissions; methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. Protection of natural wetlands and targeted management of cattail can provide maximum benefits in terms of preserving wetland ecosystems and ecosystem services, and enhancing the climate-mitigation potential of wetlands. This presentation describes the role of wetlands on climate and the effects of management and cattail expansion on wetland carbon cycling.

Video Transcript

Cattail (Typha) is an iconic emergent wetland plant found worldwide. By producing an abundance of wind-dispersed seeds, cattail can colonize wetlands across great distances, and its rapid growth rate, large size, and aggressive expansion results in dense stands in a variety of aquatic ecosystems such as marshes, ponds, lakes, and riparian areas. These dense stands impact local plant and animal life, biogeochemical cycling, and wetland hydrology, which in turn alter wetland functions. Over recent decades, the distribution and abundance of cattail in North America has increased as a result of human disturbances to natural water cycles and increased nutrient loads. In addition, highly competitive nonnative and hybrid taxa have worsened the rapid spread of cattail. Because cattail invasion and expansion often change wetlands in undesirable ways, wetland managers often respond with widespread management efforts, though these efforts may have short-lived or weak effects. Despite the negative impacts, cattail provides beneficial ecosystem services including the reduction of pollution through bioremediation and the production of biofuel material. A diverse team of researchers produced a paper that details the spread and management of cattail throughout North America ( This video highlights the primary topics covered in the paper.

Sheel Bansal, USGS

(Public domain.)