Spartina Control

During the height of the spartina invasion, large machines were used to selectively spray herbicide in the salt marsh and tide flats of Willapa Bay/USFWS Photo

Willapa Bay, one of the top biologically pristine estuaries remaining in the lower 48 states, came under threat of an invasive plant species, Spartina alterniflora. Because the bay's renewable natural resources and the local economy were threatened, the refuge and a variety of partners have worked together to keep this plant under control as part of the refuge’s estuary conservation goals.

An Unwelcome Visitor Takes Root 

In recent decades spartina alterniflora, accidentally introduced from the eastern U.S., exploded in Willapa Bay, threatening the survival of both wildlife and the aquaculture industry in the estuary. Uncover more about the Willapa Bay Estuary and the negative effects of Spartina...

Group Effort 

Spartina eradication is not possible without the efforts of many agencies, organizations and individuals working together. Willapa National Wildlife Refuge works in partnership with a variety of groups, private landowners and interest groups, and shellfish growers to eradicate spartina from Willapa Bay, including:

All is Fair in Love and War 

Collectively, these partners have used a variety of methods to eradicate spartina from Willapa Bay before it did irreversible damage. Where the spartina had formed large meadows, large amphibious machines with precision sprayers were used. These machines are equipped with sensors that detect spartina, releasing chemical only when over plants, minimizing impacts on other species. Helicopters were also used to aerially spray large meadows and large clone fields. Rototilling, although useful in rehabilitating selected areas for immediate use by shorebirds, was found to be too slow to keep pace with spartina's rapid expansion.

Spartina now occurs mostly as isolated patches and hand-crews on airboats treat the seedlings, individual plants, and small clones with hand-held sprayers. Airboats can maneuver to difficult access areas.

Efforts to remove the non-native and invasive plant, spartina alterniflora, have been successful. Although the refuge and its partners are now counting just individual plants in the Willapa Bay watershed, it will continue to take continued efforts to maintain the grass at this minimal level. Learn how you can get invloved...