National Invasive Species Awareness Week February 28 to March 4, 2022

28 Feb

February 28 to March 4, 2022 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. What are invasive species and why should you care?

By happenstance, we’ve been learning a bit more about invasive plants over the last couple of years. It started with working with the City of Vancouver to create Green Street Gardens on City owned landed. It has been an ongoing learning process throughout that time. It also meant removing some invasive shrubs like Himalayan Blackberries and grasses. There are many groups doing this kind of work all over the Province of BC. One local group Free The Fern launched during the pandemic works with volunteers to remove invasive plants in Champlain Heights and replacing them with native plants, but invasive species are not limited to plants.

So what are invasive species? “An invasive species is an introduced organism that becomes overpopulated and harms its new environment. Although most introduced species are neutral or beneficial with respect to other species, invasive species adversely affect habitats and bioregions, causing ecological, environmental, and/or economic damage“. Wikipedia

Why should you 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. Some invasive plants are toxic and could cause medical problems for wildlife, domestic animals and people.

On walks, we often see English Ivy crawling up the trunks of trees which looks beautiful, but in effect is killing the tree by suffocating it. Urban wildlife and people will be relying on those trees more as we deal with climate change going forward. To learn how you can play your part in protecting our environment from invasive species, we encourage you to check all the information provided by the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. ISCBC is an action-oriented organization working to stop the spread of invasive species in BC. They spearhead behaviour change in communities, organizations, governments and industry to help protect our province’s healthy habitats from invasive species. What can you do? We’ve set out some of the Invasive Species Council of BC’s programs below to help you become aware of things you can do to help stop the spread of invasives species in BC.

Don’t Let It Loose

Do not let unwanted pets like goldfish, rabbits, turtles and frogs loose in the wild. If you no longer want a pet, return it to the pet store you purchased it from, rehome it or deliver it to an appropriate animal rescue organization. For instance, Rabbitats in Richmond focuses on rescuing and rehoming rabbits. Do the right thing.

Plant Wise

Are you a new gardener? Learn to be Plant Wise and become aware of what plants are considered invasive before planting anything in the ground. Most reputable garden centres have stopped selling invasive plants, but some still do. There are many alternatives.

Buy Local Burn Local

If you are planning to go camping soon and plan to have a camp fire, ensure you buy and burn local wood. Why? Moving firewood, to or from a campground or cabin, can spread invasive species and diseases that can destroy forests and harm our air and water.

Clean Drain Dry

If you are planning on participating in any water sports such as boating, kayaking or taking the canoe out, you can easily spread invasives from one body of water to another. These aquatic invaders are entering BC’s beautiful lakes, streams, and wetlands. Boaters, anglers and paddlers can all take action now to help stop the spread by practicing Clean Drain Dry. 

Play Clean Go

You can stop invasive species in its tracks with cleaning your shoes when travelling to and from different areas. Seeds are easily transferred by shoes.

Report A Weed

To help curtail the spread of invasives, knowing where they are located is key. To that end, YOU can be a steward of your own neighbourhood by reporting invasives to the Invasive Species Council of BC. It’s easy to do on your walks, hikes and travels around Vancouver, or within the Province. There are several ways to report invasives, but we found the easiest is the Report A Weed app. We’ve given this one a test run. It’s easy to use, take a photo, provide some contact info and submit. If you are unsure if something is in fact an invasive, iNaturalist is an excellent app and resource. If you aren’t already familiar with this app, upload a photo and the app with determine through AI what the plant is and at the same other citizen scientists will provide feedback as to their observations and can help confirm the identity of the plant.

What’s a really bad invasive? There are a number and that answer may vary depending on where you live in the Province. There are some invasives that are toxic to grazing animals, but for those of us located in Vancouver, our guess would be Japanese Knotweed. Japanese Knotweed has bamboo like stems and roots so strong, they can penetrate thick asphalt. This invasive can damage building foundations, pipes and if on your property, devalue your home. If you’d like to learn more about invasive species and how you can do your part to stop the spread of invasives, we invite you to visit Invasive Species Council of BC.

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