The power of Phragmites

I was on my local Chleit beach (west coast of Kintyre) on 20 November and was surprised to see tender young reeds growing there. Normally at this time the plant is under siege from below as winter winds scour away the sand, exposing its white roots.
This November has been different, a story of deposition rather than erosion. Huge volumes of chopped-up seaweed have appeared, and through the thick rich layer reeds are growing as if it is spring, even though it is only a month away from the winter solstice.
We live on the Atlantic coast, so when I moved here I was surprised to see Phragmites australis (described as a “wetland plant”) growing in the first place. We are sheltered by the isles of Cara, Gigha and Islay from the worst of the storms, and the currents that normally hug the coast swing out round the outer coasts of both Cara and Gigha, meaning that the torn-up kelp tends to hang around.
We get high tides in October, and if this coincides with strong onshore winds it results in much of the kelp suspended in the water being hurled up on the upper shore, where it stays until a big storm comes our way. All this has happened this year.
However, in the background I wonder whether Climate Change is having an influence. Both air and sea temperatures are rising, and is this providing the reeds with the necessary nudge, persuading them to give it a go despite dwindling light levels?
The reeds teach me an important lesson: that ecosystems are incredibly complex and depend on so many factors.

About edwardtyler

I live in Kintyre, the long peninsula acting as a natural breakwater for the Firth of Clyde, west of Glasgow. A Permaculture and Transition practitioner, I am working with fellow community activists to co-create a resilient and vibrant local bioregion.

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