unwelcome guests - invasive species

Many of us moved to Revelstoke for its charm, its uniqueness, and its wildness. As more people enter our outdoor spaces, we increase the risk of spreading invasive plants and animals to our local environment.  A non-profit that is working hard in the background keeping Revelstoke as natural as possible is the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society, otherwise known as CSIS.

Who is Csiss?

As a joke, I have always thought it was the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which it obviously isn’t. But like them, our CSISS are working hard to keep out nefarious plants and animals that have infiltrated our lands.  All jokes aside, they have a serious job of establishing and operating invasive species management programs.    

To do this they have a multi-tiered approach that balances out the needs of the private landowners, land and aquatic managers, First Nations, and other stakeholders. CSISS works with each sector to achieve their main goals; to educate, engage, and inspire participation in invasive species management.

The impact of invasive species

It is hard to imagine all the different ways that these invasive species move around, but mostly it is through humans. Like hitchhikers, they get transported for free and once somewhere new, they can take over. Many of the invasive plants are here because we thought they looked great as garden plants. These plants thrive in their new environment and rapidly spread, taking over our natural plants and reducing biodiversity. Aquatic invasive plants are often used in home aquariums and then are accidentally released into the wild via plumbing or dumping tank water.

Invasive species can affect us in many different ways, like the spikey puncturevine which grows rapidly, and punctures tires and feet or giant hogweed that can cause blisters and burns on skin. Knotweed is so strong and invasive that it will cover trails quickly and can even disrupt the foundations of houses. On the aquatic side, there are invasive mussels, giant bullfrogs, and many species of fish, pet goldfish being one of them. Invasive aquatic plants, like milfoil, can grow so fast that they block waterways.

Once established, invasive plants can impact water quality, introduce disease, increase erosion, and reduce soil connectivity among other things. Their economic impact is just as significant...taking up large chunk of Canadian tax payers money.

how you can help prevent the spread

Ecosystems are complex and can easily be thrown out of balance with the introduction of a foreign species.  The increase of paddle boarding and boating on Lake Revelstoke has the potential to bring in invasive mussels and other species that could alter our lakes ecosystem. By following a few simple steps, we can all do our part in preserving our favourite place to play. It’s pretty simple:

  • Clean your watercraft at the lake you are leaving
  • Drain it
  • Let it dry

This process will ensure that whatever organism has attached itself to your watercraft will not be able to survive. This will prevent them from invading the next lake that you set sail in.  

As for terrestrial plants CSISS is working hard at implementing brushes and cleaning stations at trailheads. These cleaning stations can drastically reduce the transport of seeds and plants from one ecosystem to another.  It is simple, when you play somewhere, you clean your gear, and go. Play, clean, and go.

If you go to the CSISS website you can see all the different actions you can take to prevent the spread of invasive species and help CSISS officers to do their job. You can volunteer on weed pulls, which is something I did that felt fun and purposeful.  You can donate to help their non-profit, and also keep a watch out for and report any of the invasive species on their list. More importantly you can clean, drain, and dry your watercrafts as well as play, clean, and go when you are out adventuring on solid ground. 

Written by Greg Hill

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