Thursday, May 21, 2009

Aliens Living in Southern Ontario

No you don’t need to worry about meeting ET or Klingons while paddling down the Grand River – at least I’m pretty sure – but as we approach Biodiversity Day on May 22, which is held exactly one month after Earth Day, we need to become more aware of what we are doing – and have done – to the natural order of things in Southern Ontario.

According to Biodiversity Education and Awareness Network (BEAN) biodiversity is “life in all its variety: over 14 million species found from mountain top to deep-sea vent. But it is much more. Those species connect, and interact. Those interactions create communities and systems, and those systems provide goods and services such as oxygen production, pollination, water filtration and storage, pest control, food production, carbon storage and erosion control.”

Problems arise when those natural interactions are altered. This occurs when “alien species” (those species not normally found in a particular ecosystem, often referred to as invasive species) are introduced. In Southern Ontario this has occurred as a result of both intentional and non intentional introduction of foreign plants, animals, birds, and aquatic species into our well balanced, yet fragile, ecosystems.

Some of these more invasive “alien” squatters are:
Zebra Mussels – arrived in the ballast tanks of foreign freighters.
Round Goby – arrived in the ballast tanks of foreign freighters.
Purple Loosestrife – introduced by European settlers as ornamental flowers.
Rusty Crayfish – migrated or introduced from the Ohio River valley.
Garlic Mustard – introduced by European settlers.
Asian Long-Horned Beetle – arrived in foreign hardwood lumber; likely shipping crates.

So what can Ontario outdoors enthusiasts do to prevent the spread of invasive species?

Join an organization like BEAN that promotes biodiversity initiatives.
Educate yourself about the various invasive species in Southern Ontario.
Always use locally caught minnows for bait. Never bring them from another area.
Always use local firewood.
Always wash the bottom of your watercraft before launching it in a new waterbody.
Never pick or plant invasive species like purple loosestrife or garlic mustard.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll be doing your part to stop the spread of “aliens” in Southern Ontario.

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