Efforts to remove invasive plant species on Belle Isle in the Detroit River begin this summer, thanks in large part to a $470,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Friends of the Detroit River (FDR), a nonprofit based in southeast Michigan.
The two-year project, which is currently in the planning phase, aims to control invasive plant species already present on Belle Isle—Michigan’s 102nd state park—and prevent additional invasive species through an outreach and education program that builds public awareness about invasive species and ways to minimize their introduction and spread on the island park.
“The Detroit River is a designated area of concern,” said FDR project manager Sam Lovall. “One of this project’s objectives is to remove the river’s top two impairments: loss of fish and wildlife habitat and degradation of fish and wildlife populations. We can assist in doing this through invasive plant species removal on the island.”
Improving habitat diversity
Four invasive plant species—including phragmites, which encompass 50 acres of the island, reed canary grass, purple loosestrife and Japanese knotweed—will be targeted for removal. “Invasive plant species can monopolize the landscape, growing in large groves, patches and stands that destroy the diversity of the habitat,” Lovall said. “The more plant species that live in an area, the healthier that area tends to be.”
Partnership makes it possible
The Belle Isle Conservancy—in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources—will oversee volunteer efforts, enlisting organizations such as the Greening of Detroit and Student Conservation Association to assist in removal of invasive species and evaluation of progress.