Invasive Species Week
Invasive species have been an increasing element of concern for ecologists, biologists, and land managers over the last 15 years. Invasive species are, “plants, animals, aquatic life and micro-organisms that out-compete native species when introduced outside of their natural environment and threaten Canada's ecosystems, economy and society. They can come from across the country or across the globe.” (Government of Canada, 2014).
February 27 - March 3, 2017 is Invasive Species Week. This week we will be increasing awareness of invasive species and how they effect the environment, ecosystem and human beings. That's why it is important to know how to spot invasive species and what to do about it.
Pathways, Prevention & Reporting
Do you frequent HCA trails? You may be spreading invasive species and not even realizing it. Invasive species enter our conservation areas through our trails. They can often attach themselves to your hiking boots and travel throughout the area. In fact the dirtier your hiking boots, the better grounds for them to plant seeds for transporting.
Ways to prevent the spread of invasive species is to always clean your boots when hiking in different areas. You should also never move firewood from our areas up north as you would spread EAB and be sure to wash down your boat when transporting it elsewhere from one of our conservation areas because you could introduce or move an invasive species from one lake to another.
Now that you know how invasive species spread and what to do to prevent it, you'll need to know how to report them if you ever cross paths. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has teamed up with mobile app EDDMapS Ontario (Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System) to allow you to report invasive species directly with your smartphone. It's a simple and effective way to play your role in protecting the environment. You can download the app to your smartphone here.
What's in my backyard?
It's hard to identify all the species of plant, animals and micro-organism in your backyard, but you should be aware of the all too common house sparrows. These birds, which are now permanent residents in Canada, out-compete native cavity-nesting birds, and are known to destroy nests and eggs, and kill both nestlings and adults while taking over an occupied nest site. The most successful method for preventing them from breeding in your nest boxes is simply to move your boxes. Try and place nest boxes 300 meters from a house or structures as house sparrows prefer to nest near houses. Also, open your nest box after April 1st to encourage native cavity nesters.
Emerald Ash Borer, or better known for its acronym EAB, is a green jewel beetle that infests both healthy and stressed Ash trees when its larvae tunnels through the tree's vascular system which delivers water, nutrients and sugars throughout it. It can easily travel long distances through moved firewood, logs, lumber and wood chips. They are progressing at such an aggressive rate that it is projected that the EAB will destroy Hamilton’s entire Ash tree population within the next five to 10 years. If you have Ash trees in your yard, look for signs of the loss of green colour in the uppermost leaves (chlorosis) and thinning and dieback of the crown. As the infestation continues, the tree may develop sprouts (epicormic shoots) from the roots, trunk or branches, in an effort to find new ways to transport nutrients. Eventually however, with more and more of the crown dying, the tree will starve to death. Learn more about how to identify the presence of EAB here.
Tools for invasive species action
The Hamilton Conservation Authority, along with the City of Hamilton are working together to take action against invasive species threatening our area. We use an extractigator to remove invasive buckthorn and other shrubs from our conservation areas, pull garlic mustard in the spring and survey for new populations of invasive species. Manual removal through pulling is the most environmentally friendly form of removing invasive species.
We are working with the City of Hamilton to remove infested ash trees from conservation areas as they become hazardous.
Lastly, the best tool for action against invasive species is knowledge. Proper education on how to identify these species and how to properly dispose of them is the greatest tool of all.
Invasive species in the garden
Did you know that you could be growing invasive species in your garden and not even realize it? Plants such as periwinkle, burning bush, gout weed, Himalayan balsam, oriental bittersweet and more are all invasive species, commonly sold as garden plants.
These plants are capable of forming dense mats which suppress native plant species found on the forest floor.
To stop the spread of these invasive plants, there are plenty of alternative non-invasive plants available instead. View this guide for a list of beautiful non-invasive plants for your garden here.
Invasive species in the classroom
What classroom wouldn't be complete without a single goldfish in his small fishbowl, but did you know when released into the wild the classroom goldfish are an invasive species? Goldfish eat snails, small insects, fish eggs and young fish, making this species a competitor with and predator of native fish. They also stir up mud and other matter when they feed, which increases the cloudiness of the water and affects the growth of aquatic plants. We don't encourage releasing anything into the wild.
We encourage educational programs for students to better understand invasive species and their impact on our earth. If you'd like to register your class for one of our education programs, please visit here.
For more information on invasive species please visit the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry website here.