Invasive species have become the second-most pressing threat to biodiversity in British Columbia, following habitat loss. Representatives from the Invasive Species Council of B.C. embarked on an educational visit to Bulkley Valley last week, where they engaged local residents in understanding and combating this issue.
The council’s Play and Protect Mobile took to the road, stopping at the Smithers Visitor Centre and Tyhee Lake. On board the trailer, visitors found intriguing, interactive experiences, such as the Magic Magnifier and the Play and Protect Challenge. These activities provided both entertainment and vital lessons on how to safeguard the province’s biodiversity.
Robyn Lakes, one of the ambassadors, emphasized the growing risk of invasive species, especially in northern regions. She pointed out that while there are currently fewer invasive species in the area, the changing climate makes the introduction of new species more likely.
“With people traveling around the province, especially during the summer, there’s a higher chance of spreading new species here,” Lakes said. She stressed the importance of spreading awareness to prevent inadvertent introductions.
The ease with which certain species can invade and devastate native habitats poses a significant challenge. Lakes explained, “Many species are transported for gardening purposes. Ornamental plants that escape gardens, seeds stuck to vehicles, or plants transported to new locations are common ways invasive species spread.”
Local efforts to control the invasion are underway, with a tansy pull being organized. The common tansy, a herbaceous plant introduced to North America in the 1600s for medicinal use, has found its way into the region. It originates from Europe and Asia and can spread via roots and seeds that remain viable for up to a quarter-century.
The plant, which grows 0.4–1.5 metres tall, often forms dense infestations, boasting bright yellow flowers and dark green, fern-like leaves. The serrated leaves present a striking appearance.
Lakes noted the danger the plant poses to the agricultural community, particularly to cattle. “It’s toxic to grazers and can impact ranchers,” she said. “Once established, it’s really hard to get rid of, forcing farmers to shift their grazing areas.”
The economic toll on farmers can be significant. Lakes also mentioned reports that dairy cattle fed on the leaves of the common tansy produce milk with an unpleasant taste.
The outreach and education by the Invasive Species Council of B.C. aim to equip residents with the knowledge and tools to recognize and prevent the spread of such invasive species, safeguarding both the natural environment and local economy.