Truesdale Lake  

South Salem, New York

Restoring Balance: The Imperative to Remove Phragmites from Freshwater Lake Shorelines


Freshwater lakes are vital ecosystems that support a rich diversity of plant and animal life. However, the delicate balance of these ecosystems can be disrupted by invasive species like Phragmites australis, commonly known as common reed. While Phragmites may appear as a picturesque addition to lake shorelines, their unchecked growth can have detrimental effects on the environment, and water quality. This article delves into the reasons why the removal of Phragmites from freshwater lake shorelines is an essential step towards restoring and preserving these critical ecosystems.

  1. Invasive Nature of Phragmites
    Phragmites australis is a highly invasive perennial grass that originated in Eurasia but has rapidly spread. Its aggressive growth habit and ability to outcompete native vegetation make it a formidable threat to the ecological balance of freshwater lake shorelines. Phragmites forms dense monocultures that shade out native plants, reducing habitat diversity and disrupting the natural habitat of aquatic organisms.
  2. Impact on Biodiversity
    The unchecked expansion of Phragmites can lead to a decline in native plant and animal species. Many native plants provide essential food and habitat for insects, birds, a displacement by Phragmites can result in a cascading effect throughout the ecosystem.
  3. Altered Hydrology
    Phragmites stands can alter the hydrology of freshwater lake ecosystems. The dense growth of these plants can impede the natural flow of water along shorelines, leading to the formation of stagnant water pools and increasing the risk of flooding during heavy rainfall events. This alteration in water flow can also impact sediment deposition and nutrient cycling, further disrupting the ecological balance of the lake.
  4. Degraded Water Quality
    The negative impacts of Phragmites extend to water quality. The dense root systems of these plants stabilize sediment, leading to the accumulation of organic matter and nutrients in the water. This can result in decreased water clarity, increased turbidity, and heightened levels of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen, which can fuel the growth of harmful algal blooms. Such blooms can produce toxins that threaten the health of aquatic life and render water supplies unsafe for human use.
  5. Restoration Efforts
    Recognizing the importance of preserving freshwater lake ecosystems, many communities have initiated efforts to remove Phragmites and restore native vegetation. These restoration projects often involve manual, mechanical, or chemical methods to control Phragmites growth, followed by the planting of native species to restore ecological balance. While these efforts can be challenging and require ongoing maintenance, successful restoration can lead to improved biodiversity, water quality, and recreational opportunities.


The removal of Phragmites from freshwater lake shorelines is not just a matter of aesthetics; it’s a crucial step in protecting and restoring these vital ecosystems. The invasive nature of Phragmites disrupts native habitats, impacts biodiversity, alters hydrology, degrades water quality, and causes recreational challenges.

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