We are celebrating the success of the three year Take Action, Be Aquatic Wise project! Starting in 2018, the Canadian Council on Invasive Species (CCIS) received a grant from the EcoAction Community Funding Program, through Environment and Climate Change Canada, to partner with the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISC BC) and the Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council (SISC) to work with local partners in both provinces and adopt aquatic habitats to remove aquatic invasive species, resulting in restored shoreline and wetland areas. The overall objective of the project is to improve water quality and restore key shorelines and wetlands and to raise awareness of the threat of invasive species across Canada. With the help of our partners and volunteers, the Take Action, Be Aquatic Wise program has made a positive impact in local communities through on the ground invasive species removal and prevention on our shorelines and in our waterways. A synopsis of field activities over the course of this project by our partners are summarized below:
Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council (SISC) Field Activities Summary:
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, the Meewasin Valley Authority, the South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards and the Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council joined forces and adopted 45 km of the South Saskatchewan infested with Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus). In addition to the groups mentioned, volunteer support included representatives from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Leader Lions Club and the Town of Leader.
Areas Targeted in Saskatchewan: South Saskatchewan River
- Shores of the river were scouted by teams in canoes for the entire 45 km length of the adopted area.
- Flowering Rush patches were found and mapped.
- Groups returned to mapped locations and removed all patches found in year 1, then started working westward toward Alberta where the source of the Flowering Rush infestation originates.
- Work will continue in future years to both survey other portions of the river downstream and to eradicate Flowering Rush upstream of where activities ceased for the season, in hopes that a Flowering Rush free buffer will be created and maintained from the Alberta border into Saskatchewan.
- Communications regarding Flowering Rush were sent out to local media outlets with the hope of raising awareness about the threat of Flowering Rush in their area.
- The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan also monitored another riparian area for Flowering Rush that had been previously infested with Flowering Rush. For the first time since the monitoring and removal had begun 10 years ago, no Flowering Rush was found.
- In year 2 shore-based surveys and removals were continued along sections of the river, and drone surveys for Flowering Rush were trialed.
- At the Flowering Rush site in the 2-hectare wetland near Watrous, SK, a comprehensive shoreline survey was conducted.
- Due to COVID-19 delays and restrictions in year 2 of this project, field work could not be completed as it was the previous year.
- Additionally, high water levels and fast currents prevented water-based surveys for Flowering Rush on the South Saskatchewan River from being conducted due to safety reasons in year 2.
- There are concerns that some Flowering Rush populations that could not be removed in 2019, and were not found again in 2020, have been washed further downstream due to flooding.
Overall, SISCs monitoring activities have shown that the Flowering Rush removal has been successful, with very little re-emergence. The Flowering Rush site near Watrous, SK has found no new plants for a second year in a row, indicating that eradication efforts here were successful.
Invasive Species Council of British Columbia (ISC BC) Field Activities Summary:
ISC BC partnered with the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS), Friends of Bridge Lake, Williams Lake Indian Band, and Friends of Todd Creek Watershed, and secured 2 new partners in year 2 with Lac Des Roches and the Burnaby Lake Park Association to help undertake restoration activities. Volunteers from local communities were also involved.
Areas Targeted in BC: White Lake and Little White Lake, bridge lake, Todd Creek Watershed, shoreline of Shuswap lake, Prospect lake, Maltby lake, Scout Island, Burnaby Lake Park
- Yellow flag iris removal. Partners and volunteers worked to dig out the plants and the roots of as many of the iris’s as possible in the time permitted. The tops of flowering iris’s were then removed near the end of removal day to slow and prevent further spread at the site.
- Surveying for yellow flag iris was completed to allow groups to plan removal locations in the following season.
- After removal of yellow flag iris, partners conducted monitoring and restoration activities at each site to remove any remaining invasive plants. Any new growth was cut down and vinyl was reattached at the site. More spikes were secured into the vinyl to keep it in place for the next year.
- One partner led Asian clam sampling along the shorelines to determine their presence in the area.
- The ISCBC supported partners by providing resources and materials to support the adopting of an aquatic habitat.
- Aquatic plant surveying was completed at one site, Eurasian watermilfoil was found during the survey.
- Stewardship event planning for the upcoming field season.
- Due to COVID-19, many of the planned spring and summer stewardship activities and events in year 2 of the project were cancelled or postponed to the following field season.
ISC BC continues to reach out to new partners across BC in the tourism and marina trades to discuss and collaborate on invasive wise partnerships and messaging and to seek commitments to take action to prevent invasive species. ISC BC has initiated and is piloting resources and training for an Invasive Wise Tourism project which will further support the Take Action, Be Aquatic Wise project goals into the future.
Take Action, Be Aquatic Wise Resource Development Summary:
In addition to the successful field work undertaken in local communities in BC and Saskatchewan, a number of valuable take action resources and prompts have been developed through this project to prevent the spread of invasive species and further protect our aquatic ecosystems across Canada. These resources include Adopt an Aquatic Habitat Toolkit (HERE) and the launching of the Invasive-Wise Marinas program and the associated suite of resources and webpage (HERE). Check out one of our past Take Action, Be Aquatic Wise articles for a run down on these great resources (HERE) !
Post-Program Survey Findings:
To monitor the project’s success, local organization and volunteers involved with this project were asked to complete a survey related to behaviour change during the field season in 2019 and 2020. The survey gathered information on the awareness and attitudes of individuals towards invasive species in the BC and Saskatchewan communities where the program took place. A second survey, the post-program survey, was launched in February 2021 to again collect information from local organizations and volunteers to compare to the first survey’s results and to help measure change in behaviour as a result of this project. Below is a highlight of findings from the analysis of both surveys:
- The number of staff each organization had ranged from 0 to 7 staff members in survey 1 and increased to 0-21 staff members. An average of 45% of all respondents were from volunteer based organizations.
- The number of volunteers per organization ranged from 10 – 100 in the first survey and 15 – 1000 in the second, potentially indicating an increase in volunteer enrollment/participation.
- Results indicated that respondents felt their knowledge and capacity to deal with aquatic invasive species improved after being involved with this project:
- A great deal – 30%
- A lot – 30%
- A moderate amount – 30%
- A little – 0%
- none at all – 0%
- Knowledge on the capacity to deal with aquatic invasive species was ranked between 1 and 10, with 10 being a greater knowledge. The average overall ranking in the first survey was 7 and increased to 7.3 in the second survey.
- Organizations indicated that they completed the following activities to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, ordered from most common activities to least:
- Inventorying and monitoring for new aquatic invasive species
- On-the ground control and removal of aquatic invasive species
- Prevention focused activities (ex. Clean Drain Dry, Don’t Let it Loose)
- General outreach and education
- Respondents indicated how they felt their organizations invasive species prevention activities have changed since 2019 to 2021 to the following degree:
- A great deal – 0%
- A lot – 67%
- A moderate amount – 33%
- A little – 0%
- none at all – 0%
- Respondents indicated the activities they had planned for the 2o21-2022 field season, after the completion of this project. The following activities are ranked from most often planned to least:
- Undertake removal and management of a specific aquatic invasive species
- Attend outreach events to disseminate information
- Other (surveying, sampling, and monitoring of aquatic invasive species; prevention activities; post-treatment monitoring; field programs for terrestrial invasive species)
- Respondents ranked their most focused on invasive species from 1-3 in the first and second surveys. The species below are listed by frequency of choice and in the ranking provided by respondents (most frequent to least):
- Yellow flag iris
- Zebra and quagga mussels
- Eurasian water milfoil
- Flowering rush
- American bullfrog
- Reed canary grass
- Leafy Spurge
- Golden willow
- Prussian Carp
- Organizations were asked to indicate where they applied for funding from a list of funding sources. The results are listed from most common to least:
- Provincial / Territorial government
- Federal government
- Regional government
- Respondents were asked if their organization secured funding, and if so, from where, to complete field activities planned for the 2021-2022 field season:
- Yes – 33% from Federal funding.
- No – 67%
- Organizations used the following communication activities to promote their work, listed from most common to least:
- Social media
- Press releases
- Newspaper Advertisements
- Other (website and YouTube)
- Respondents were asked if their organization experienced an increased response from their audiences as a result of communication activities since 2019 (ex. social media engagements, follows/contacts, public inquiries, etc.):
- A great deal – 0%
- A lot – 67%
- A moderate amount – 33%
- A little – 0%
- none at all – 0%
- Respondents indicated that resources including tools and supplies, funding, professional consultants, additional staff for outreach, and regular updates on activities from other groups would be most helpful to assist their organization in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.
The above analysis of survey results from organizations and their volunteers implementing the Take Action, Be Aquatic Wise program in Saskatchewan and British Columbia indicate a positive changes in number of staff and volunteers, an increase in knowledge and capacity to deal with invasive species, an increase in response from audiences, and a change in the actives that have been undertaken since the beginning of this project. These results also give insight into organizational funding streams, invasive species activities undertaken, communication activities to promote awareness and what invasive species are considered priority in both provinces. This information not only helps us understand the need and impact of the Take Action, Be Aquatic Wise program, but also indicates the need for continued restoration efforts and implementation of the resources created during this project. CCIS staff are committed to working with ISC BC and SISC to continue to implement resources among their partners and throughout other provinces and territories across Canada!
Thank you to all of our partners for helping us implement this program to protect shorelines and wetlands and to help promote Canadians to Take Action and Be Aquatic Wise!
Continue to spread the word to others about aquatic invasive species and how they can help:
Although, the Take Action, Be Aquatic Wise program is coming to a close, the CCIS is committed to continue to promote Canadians to protect and restore aquatic ecosystems from coast to coast! Below are a list of important actions that all Canadians can take to help prevent the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species and protect our shorelines now and into the future:
1. Learn what they look like and report them. By learning what they look like and reporting their sightings, you are contributing to their early detection, resulting in action to prevent their further spread. If we learn of where these species are before they get a foot hold, we may be able to stop them. To learn about the species in your province or territory, along with the reporting system to use, go HERE.
2. Prevent their spread. If you like to go outside, bike, fish, boat, kayak etc. you might be spreading invasive species without even knowing it. Be sure to clean off and check your gear for invasive plants and animals before moving to a new location. To learn more about this, visit our website HERE.
3.Tackle them. We worked with ISC BC and SISC to create an “Adopt an Aquatic Area Toolkit”. The purpose of the toolkit is to assist other stakeholder groups in protecting our precious aquatic habitats by effectively addressing aquatic invasive species issues. The toolkit is a step-by-step guide on how to adopt and aquatic area impacted by invasive species and how to restore and manage it. Find the toolkit HERE.