Canadians can help stop the spread of invasive species in wetlands and waterways
Oak Hammock Marsh, Man. – Cue the sci-fi music…invasive alien species are in our midst. They’re lurking in the inky waters of our wetlands and multiplying in our waterways. But this tale of habitat takeover is rooted in reality. Canada is facing off against some rapidly spreading invasives that are threatening our favourite recreational areas and making it hard for native species to survive. The good news? Simple changes to how Canadians engage in outdoor activities, coupled with innovative conservation efforts led by organizations like Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), can help write a happy ending for our treasured natural areas.
This spring and summer, more Canadians will be heading outside to enjoy time in nature. National Invasive Species Awareness Week (February 28 – March 4) is an opportunity to encourage citizens to become invasive-species aware and take action to help prevent the spread.
“Invasive species are a core threat to habitat in Canada’s southern landscapes and the many native species that depend on them,” says Mark Gloutney, DUC’s director of regional operations for Eastern Canada and British Columbia. “In ecosystems like wetlands, which already face numerous threats related to development and land conversion, invasive species add another layer of complexity for our conservation team to overcome.”
DUC has been providing science-based solutions to invasive species issues for more than 20 years and is a proud partner of the Canadian Council for Invasive Species (CCIS). Gloutney, who is also an executive member of CCIS, says there are easy ways that citizens can make a difference:
- Clean gear after returning from outdoor activities and power-wash equipment like tractors and all-terrain vehicles to ensure that invasive seeds or plants aren’t transported to the next outdoor adventure.
- Become an informed gardener by researching and planting non-invasive native plants to support local ecosystems with food for birds, insects and other wildlife.
- Be a citizen scientist by using a smartphone to record and report sightings to Canada’s Invasive Species Centre.
“We know from experience that partnership and collaboration are hallmarks of conservation success. That’s why it’s essential that governments, businesses, conservation organizations and citizens alike come together to build practical solutions,” says Gloutney, who adds that there are good reasons to be hopeful about the future.
“The conservation successes we’ve undertaken have shown that once the invasive species is removed, wetlands are resilient and can rebound swiftly.”
At DUC, advancements in science and research are informing our approach to addressing invasive species issues across the country. Here’s a look at some of the ways we’re making progress to eradicate invasive species in key landscapes:
- British Columbia: DUC is joining forces with other conservation partners to remove spartina, an invasive plant species, along the Fraser River Delta and east coast of Vancouver Island. Spartina disrupts these sensitive saltwater ecosystems and outcompetes native plants like eelgrass, which is an important food source for waterfowl.On Frenchies Island, DUC is working to stop the spread of narrowleaf cattail with the goal of improving the area for salmon and waterfowl. This cattail forms much denser communities than its native counterpart and limits the food that waterfowl and other wildlife consume.
- Prairies: Every spring, common carp migrate into Manitoba’s Delta Marsh from Lake Manitoba. These invasive fish feed along the marsh bottom and stir up sediments that restricts sunlight and stunts the growth of aquatic plants that support invertebrates and waterfowl. DUC, in partnership with the Province of Manitoba, undertook a massive, multi-year project that included constructing dikes and carp exclusion screens to keep the destructive carp out.
- Eastern Canada: Across southern Ontario, DUC is working to remove invasive phragmites, which develops into woody thickets that crowd out local plant and animal life, block views, fill in access points for swimming and boating, and disrupt water flow in shallow channels and ditches. DUC is mapping and monitoring phragmites with drones that identify the invasive plant and its distribution at our wetland projects, and we’re partnering with government and research institutions on a promising nature-based solution to slow the spread.
- Along Eastern Lake Ontario and the Rideau River, DUC is also working to remove European water chestnut, an invasive plant species that forms impenetrable floating mats that clog shorelines and waterways. It blocks light from penetrating the water’s surface, reducing natural underwater plant growth and leading to fish kills.
- Atlantic Canada: Students from DUC’s Wetland Centre of Excellence at Charlottetown Rural High School have been battling nightshade and glossy buckthorn, two invasive plants choking out native species, blocking waterflow through the wetland, and growing wild over the trail system. But thanks to the hard work and persistence of these teenagers, the ecosystem is now thriving.
Beyond these specific initiatives targeting invasive species, DUC delivers wetland conservation and restoration on nearly 12,000 sites across the country. Thanks to DUC’s efforts, these habitats are home to a diversity of native species and have a much greater ability to resist damage and recover quickly when faced with the stresses caused by invaders. Read more about DUC’s conservation work and efforts to control invasive species.
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations, Indigenous Peoples and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. To learn more about DUC’s innovative environmental solutions and services, visit www.ducks.ca
For more information or to arrange an interview with an invasive species expert, contact:
Ducks Unlimited Canada