Coastal Invasive Species Committee/Special to the Mirror Yellow flag iris is a showy, yellow ornamental plant that chokes out native species. It has taken a hold in the Baikie Island Nature Reserve at the Campbell River Estuary.

Invasive plants wreaking havoc on Campbell River environment

Local environment is experiencing damaging effects of invasive plant species

Invasive plant species are threatening the local environment, according to a city forestry group.

Invasive plants, such as yellow flag iris and blackberries, have established themselves in the Baikie Island Nature Reserve, an environmentally-sensitive ecosystem in the community.

Remarkable efforts have been made by groups like Greenways Land Trust, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, in past years to remove patches of yellow flag iris – a showy ornamental plant that prevents establishment of native wetland plants and damages valuable habitat for native species.

The plant is so aggressive, however, that more work is still needed at Baikie Island and other areas of the community where purple loose strife and Scotch broom are also known to frequent.

Jason Hutchinson, a member of the city’s Forestry Task Force who has experience managing outbreaks of invasive species, said invasive species are costing the city.

“In Campbell River, we are recognizing increased maintenance costs to public parks, managed forestlands and private properties from these alien plants,” Hutchinson said in a release.

The economic impacts of invasive species throughout the nation as a whole is significant, and according to Environment Canada, the damage to agriculture and forest industries results in an estimated $7.5 billion of lost revenues annually across the country.

The City of Campbell River is trying to do its part and a few years ago, adopted an invasive plant management and five-year implementation plan to target, control and eradicate various invasive species on publicly-owned, environmentally-sensitive lands. The city has also played a part in helping fund Greenways’ yellow iris eradication efforts on Baikie Island.

Now the city is turning to the community for help. As May is invasive species awareness month, the timing is appropriate.

Hutchinson said it’s a cause that everyone should get involved in.

“Once established, invasive plant species bring harmful impacts to our environment, economy and society,” Hutchinson said.

Invasive plants can alter habitat and damage ecosystems by displacing native vegetation and competing for water, nutrients and space. During the process of invading, they can reduce soil productivity and water quality and degrade wildlife and fish habitats, according to a city press release.

For example, Scotch broom has negatively affected regenerating forests by displacing young trees and competing for nutrients, light and water.

This competition reduces productivity and future economic activities such as timber harvesting and the gathering of non-timber forest products.

As well, the various knotweed species are very prolific and difficult to eradicate once established on a site. They grow quickly and shade out native tree seedlings, reducing the value of the future forest.

Negative social impacts from invasive plants establishing in forests, green spaces and parks include lost income, reduced water quality, increased maintenance costs, seasonal allergies and hay fever.

Plants that can have significant negative effects on surrounding forests and green spaces include: yellow flag iris (water bodies and estuaries), Daphne (forest understories), Scotch broom (disturbed soils and infrastructure corridors), giant hogweed (roadsides), and knotweed (riparian areas, parks, infrastructure corridors and forests).

What you can do

*Report sightings through Report-a-Weed, a free online application available for mobile devices.

*Do not dump yard waste or plant materials into natural areas, watersheds or surrounding forests (this is the most common way alien plant species end up in our forests and waterways).

*Choose plants for your garden wisely and avoid unwanted exotic plants.

*Visit bcinvasives.ca to identify exotic plants and animals and how they can affect our community, our natural environment and surrounding forests.

*Volunteer with Greenways Land Trust during an organized Broom Bash or yellow iris plant pull on Baikie Island. Find more information at, greenwaystrust.ca

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