Invasive species have made Saskatchewan their new home. The fast spreading species can be plants, animals, insects or fungus.
They pose a serious threat to the country’s native species and habitat. They’re also the second most common threat when it comes to species extinctions, habitat loss being number one.
Matthew Braun is the conservation science and planning manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Saskatchewan region. He said here in Sask. were mainly dealing with invasive plants and mussels in our lakes.
Seven of the 10 invasive species on the Conservancy’s list are found in Saskatchewan, which includes knapweeds, common tansy and purple loosestrife.
The invasive plants are generally from Europe. The plants can move into our land either through hay from different areas or ornamentals being brought into local garden centers. Braun said these plants then escape from the garden or wind up in the compost and then make their way out into the world.
“There’s a number of different methods that invasive species impact everybody around us,” Braun said. “The most abundantly clear one is the economics where an invasive species, a plant, will move on to your hay field and either reduce the quality or yield of that hay or your pasture lands, so you’re not getting as many bales so that hurts you economically.”
The economic cost, nationally, from invasive species is anywhere from $16 to $34 billion dollars a year because of its impact on Canada’s biodiversity. Braun said the cost is also high because of loss of productivity, constantly having to treat the plants and the toxicity can make people and live stock sick meaning there would be medical costs associated with that.
“The big one that has most people the most worried is zebra mussels that are moving from east to west by different lake systems,” said Braun. “(zebra mussels) kind of jump from lake to lake from boats that haven’t been properly sanitized, cleaned and inspected.”
Zebra mussels tend to clog up water pipes drawing water from the infected body of water. Braun added the cost to clean out these pipes can be extensive because their growth is so prolific. He said not only is it a massive annual cost but users also risk losing their source of water.
BIG IMPACT ON ECOSYSTEM
Invasive species tend to spread very rapidly. They also can be very dominate as they don’t have any of their natural enemies, as they normally would for where they came from, so there’s nothing keeping the species in check.
“That means your pushing out all the other plants that were originally there providing habitat for all the different birds, bugs and animals that needed them. You’re eliminating a more simple ecosystem so it’s not as able to withstand variability in weather or disturbance around it,” said Braun. “It’s just not as healthy when it has fewer species in there because they’ve been pushed out by these invasive species coming in.”
There are a number of ways to help keep these invasive species in check. Asking garden center staff if certain plants are considered invasive or reporting any invasive plant you see to the Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council are great ways at taking preventive steps Braun added.
For lake goers with boats, Braun said to empty out any water, clean the boat and then let it dry before moving it.