Preventing the Spread

To help support a healthy watershed, we all need to do our part to protect what we have. One way to support a healthy, resilient watershed is by learning about invasive species! Throughout the next 2 months, stay tuned to our social media to learn about invasive species in the area and what you can do to reduce their chances of taking over our beautiful landscape. But first thing's first. What is an invasive species? An invasive species is something that did not naturally evolve in a given location but was instead brought from somewhere exotic. There are many stories to explain why a species became invasive, from bringing something from home to make a foreign land seem less foreign, to hitchhikers and accidental transplants, there are many reasons causing the massive issue that is invasives.   

In Alberta, invasives are controlled under the Weed Act, which includes aquatic invasives, invasives, pests and diseases. There are two definitions of invasives: Noxious and Prohibited Noxious. Noxious species are ones that we aim to control and prevent from spreading. An example of this is by cutting invasive plants down before they grow flowers and go to seed. Prohibited Noxious, on the other hand, are species that must be eradicated and destroyed. To leave these species to live, even controlled, is not enough and they must be destroyed and removed from the landscape. These species are more dangerous because they are quicker to spread and become very difficult to remove.  

Here are some common invasive plants from the area. This is not exhaustive but it is important to learn as many as possible so you can help control their spread! The LSWC has invasive species guides at our office and we often hand them out at pop-up events, trade shows, and workshops! Pop by the office if you want your own copy! It's a helpful pocket guide, ready to take anywhere and help you I.D on the go! 

Pathways of Spread 

Shoes, Tires, Soft Clothing 

Sticking to established trails, either for a hike or an OHV ride is our best defense from spreading invasives in our natural environments. Seeds are quick to spread in soiled and muddy tires, grab onto soft clothing or bags, and more. By sticking to trails, invasives can only establish where folks frequent, helping to keep tabs on the situation. If we wander around a forest, it is possible to bring new species with us and cause a new infestation to spread without anyone's knowledge until it becomes a massive problem. When possible, brush and clean off clothing, boots, tires, and anything that could have a hidden invader close to the area where you picked it up, like after a hike, brush off the treads of your hiking boots before moving to another area.  


If a plant is growing near a waterbody, the seed will drop into the water and spread quickly and easily. Aquatic invasives are notorious for taking over a particular waterbody or site quickly and efficiently. We must be extra cautious around water and waterbodies too because removing these invasives is more difficult than on land. Removal often requires special permissions, licenses and more to help protect the existing habitat and species, while also trying to protect water quality.  

Transplanting, Translocating 

Just like in the olden days, folks will want to bring with them little pieces of home, or something they thought was cool, unique or pretty from elsewhere. Unfortunately, there could be any number of invaders attached to something like a pinecone, or the plant itself! Before you consider translocating a plant or species, please be sure to check if it could cause harm in the new place! It is better to be informed about these things than to accidentally cause a huge issue! 


Sometimes a species is brought to a new area totally by accident. Seed or microscopic versions of a species can get picked up and be carried in the ballast water of a boat or in a small nook on a piece of equipment. It is vital that we clean, drain and dry all our equipment from waterbody to waterbody to prevent cross contamination of things like whirling disease or these tiny hitchhikers from making an unwanted journey! Try to use local firewood when camping and try to leave behind as much nature as possible.  

Dumping Unwanted Pets 

Something else that is commonly misunderstood about invasives is dumping unwanted pets in nature. This can have incredibly negative impacts on local systems! People will decide that they're done with having a pet goldfish or decide to flush a dead goldfish. They'll sometimes drop a fish off in a natural or manmade waterbody for a new life. We always encourage folks NOT to do this! These fish can survive the pipes! Fish will survive and thrive in the wild. Goldfish have a knack for growing as large as they can, given their food supply, making for giant invasive goldfish! Please rehome fish and bury them when the time comes.  


With so many pathways to spread, it might feel like we are without tools to control invasive infestations. Luckily, there is an easy-to-use app to help report invasive species! EDDMaos is available for free and is for anyone to use! This app will take your observations and information about the infestation and report it to the person in charge of that land to keep an eye on it and control the infestation! Once a spot has been controlled or eradicated of its problem species, the authority over the land is supposed to monitor the site for 5 years! This is a way for everyone to do their part to help control invasive species!  


By: Kate Lovsin