According to the Ontario Invasive Plant Council (OIPC), invasive species are alien species whose introduction or spread negatively impact native biodiversity, the economy and/or society, including human health.
So what is an alien species?
Alien Species - Plant, animals and micro-organisms that have been accidentally or deliberately introduced into areas beyond their native range. Synonyms may include introduced, non-native and exotic.
What's the problem?
Invasive alien plants cost us all money. They are a huge drag on the economy. Consider the simple subset of the added cost to farmers (over $2.2 Billion annually in Canada) and to your weekly grocery bill.
They also cost us environmentally, as these invasives replace or compete with native species causing a loss of health (i.e. resilience in ecosystems)...in human terms adding to the risks for our future security, making adaptation to climate change more difficult and adding to the problem of biodiversity loss.
There are about 500 invasive plants in Canada. Most of them (over 440) are in Southern Ontario, and thus most of the economic and biodiversity issues are in Ontario.
What are some solutions?
Here are a few ways you can help stop the spread of invasive species in Ontario:
Gardening? Plant native species.
Going camping? Don’t transport firewood. Buy it locally; leave what you don’t use there.
Going fishing? Don’t empty your bait bucket in or near water – it’s against the law.
Going boating? Wash your boat before you move to another lake or river.
Going hiking? Clean visible mud, plants and seeds from your boots and other equipment.
Have a fish pet that is no longer wanted? Don’t release it into the wild and don’t flush dead fish down the toilet. Put them in the garbage or compost.
Have a turtle or other small reptile pet that is no longer wanted? Don’t release it into the wild. Contact a reptile rescue society like Little RES Q for help.
Travelling? Don’t take plants, plant parts, seeds or fruit across borders.
Call the Invasive Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711
OIPC is working with partners to develop a mapping tool that will support an online database. On the Invasives Tracking System, you can review maps that show the known range of invasive species and contribute your additions to the information.
There are lots of great resources available online. Check out the list at the end of this posting. The OIPC has also developed some helpful guides:
The Landowners Guide to Controlling Invasive Woodland Plants
Grow Me Instead: Beautiful Non-Invasive Plants for your Garden
And many more on the OIPC "Publications" page
Want to know more?
Ontario Invasive Plant Council
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: invasive species and biodiversity
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters: Invading Species
OMNR: Aquatic Invasive Species
Terrestrial Invasive Species
A helpful brochure to identify giant higweed in different stages of growth
Pick up a copy of the May/June 2011 issue of Muskoka Life for some good articles about how to get rid of invasive species and wht native plants are best in Muskoka!!
Invasive Alien Species in Canada (Environment Canada)