“According to the World Conservation Union, invasive alien species are the second most significant threat to biodiversity, after habitat loss”. You most likely have read or seen this quote once before, in another, similar article, on a website, maybe even a newspaper. But what does it really mean? And how does it directly affect you? Ultimately, why should you care about invasive species?
For reference, an invasive species is a species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health. They are extremely fast growing and usually reproduce quickly and in large numbers. Since they are not from the area where they have been introduced, they lack natural predators to slow their spread. The species that are native to the area where the invasive species has been introduced, lack defense mechanisms to fight off the invader: a perfect recipe for these species to take over.
Here are some reasons why you should care about invasive species:
If you are an angler: If you enjoy recreational fishing, and invasive species such as Asian Carp become established in the Great Lakes, you should care. Asian carp are voracious eaters, able to consume 5 to 20 per cent of their body weight each day, leaving far less food for the fish you enjoy to catch like Lake Trout, Lake Sturgeon and Walleye. Less food for those species, means less fish to catch. They may actually directly predate sport fish by eating their eggs and fry. Some Asian Carp can even jump out of the water, leaving potential for an injury and possibly, a lost season of fishing.
If you are a boater or swimmer: If you enjoy a casual day on the water, and aquatic invasive plants like Water Soldier become established, you should care. Water Soldier forms dense floating mats that directly impede boating. Sharp serrated leaf edges can even cut swimmers!
If you are a gardener or homeowner: If you enjoy gardening and maintaining your home, and you have Japanese Knotweed creeping onto your property, you should care. Japanese knotweed releases a chemical substance that inhibits plant growth, including your own garden plants, like beautiful hydrangeas or native sugar maples. It also poses threats to walls and foundations. It has a wide-ranging root structure that extends 3 metres below its surface and will exploit the smallest weak spots, costing you thousands of dollars in repairs. In Britain, homeowners are refused mortgages if Japanese knotweed is nearby.
If you are concerned about the economy and environment: If you worry about the future of the economy and/or the environment, you should care. Native plants, animals and habitats provide us with ecosystem services such as removal of pollution, recreational opportunities, food and medicine, protection of water, soil, climate and nutrients. Many of our native habitats are made up of species that are at risk of extinction and 42 percent of threatened or endangered species are at risk due to invasive species. Power companies in the US spend an estimated $1.5 million each year to control kudzu vines growing on power lines. Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes can rapidly cover submerged surfaces, clogging up water intakes at water treatment facilities and power plants. Removing this invasive species costs an estimated $500 million annually in the Great Lakes alone. All of these costs are paid with your tax dollars.
If this has changed your mind and made you care about invasive species, spread the word to others and share with them these tips:
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 about it. Be sure to 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. Through the EcoAction Program, we have partnered 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 remove aquatic invasive species, resulting in restored shoreline and wetland areas. We worked with ISC BC and SISC to create an “Adopt an Aquatic Area Tookit”. 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.