Invasive species are plants, animals or other organisms that come from other parts of the world and begin to outcompete and even replace the existing plant and animal populations. Did you know there are currently over 1,000 invasive species in Ontario? It’s true. These unwanted invaders take over their new surroundings like wetlands, replace our breathtaking views with dense mats of vegetation, shade out native plants, impact biodiversity, affect our water quality and interfere with recreational activities. Without early detection and immediate action, the potential for significant impacts on our wetlands and waterfowl habitat resources is real.
In southeastern Ontario waters, the newest threat is European Water Chestnut (Trap natans). Colonies of this aggressive, annual aquatic plant have recently found at Voyageur Provincial Park along the Ottawa River and within Wolfe Island’s Bayfield Bay and Button Bay. The dense floating mats are reducing the amount of light that penetrates the water’s surface, prohibiting the growth of native plants beneath. The decomposing vegetation and decreased oxygen levels make for a murky lake with stagnant water and limited ability to support waterfowl and wildlife.
In the meantime, an invasive Common Reed is wreaking havoc Ontario’s southwest region. Phragmites (Phragmites australis) – an aggressive spreading grass capable of reaching heights greater than 5 metres and densities of over 200 plants per square metre – has expanded and colonized many of the coastal wetlands of Long Point and Lake St. Clair. The result is decreased biodiversity and habitats for many wetland species including species at risk.
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is currently working with partners to remove and control the outbreaks of European Water Chestnut before they spread throughout Lake Ontario and within the St. Lawrence River system while collaborating with others to find better ways to control Phragmities and maintain the health of the remaining wetland habitats.
Whether it’s European Water Chestnut, Phragmites, or any of the many invasive species impacting Ontario’s beautiful blue waters, the threat is real and you can help. Spread the word. Keep yourself and others aware of invasive species in your area.