The Non-Native and Invasive Species component was completed in 2017. A species is considered to be invasive if its introduction or spread causes (or may cause) harm to the local environment, human health, society or economic activity.
There are a number of water and land-based invasive species that have the potential to impact the health of our watershed. The BRWA is looking into actions that can be taken to manage invasive species that are already present in our watershed and limit the introduction of new invasive species.
Two aquatic invasive species that have been getting a lot of media attention in Alberta lately are zebra and quagga mussels. They haven’t yet been found in any lakes or rivers in the province, which is great news. Once they are present, it’s hard to get rid of them, and they can cause a lot of damage. The Government of Alberta has estimated costs of about $75 million in annual losses if these mussels were to become established in the province. There is already great work being done to prevent mussels from entering Alberta, including education and awareness programs and mandatory watercraft inspections on major highways entering the province. The BRWA is looking into ways we can extend the reach of these programs in our watershed.
Invasive aquatic plant and fish species are also of concern in Alberta. An emerging issue is the release of plant and fish species from household aquariums. Goldfish have been found in large numbers in various stormwater ponds across the province, and have the potential to harm native fish populations and the health of aquatic ecosystems as a whole.
Similarly, aquatic plants have the potential to spread throughout our lakes, rivers and streams, out-competing species that are native to our watershed. The BRWA is interested in looking into opportunities to increase aquatic invasive species monitoring efforts in our watershed. We can also work to raise awareness about the potential negative impacts of releasing aquarium fish and plants into natural water bodies and waterways.
Invasive land-based plant species are another key concern in our watershed, especially in the riparian areas along our lakes, wetlands, rivers and streams. Native plants that thrive in riparian areas have deep-binding root systems that help hold banks and shorelines in place and limit erosion. Many non-native and invasive plants have more shallow root systems, which can lead to greater bank and shoreline instability. Through increased erosion, the amount of sediment and pollutants carried into our waterways also increases, leading to poorer water quality. Invasive plants in riparian areas also reduce forage quality and quantity for wildlife, and are readily spread downstream with water flows to infest new areas. By limiting the number of invasive plants found in the riparian areas of our watershed, we can help to ensure that water quality and the overall health of our watershed is maintained or improved.