Goldfish and other species unwelcome in wild
The Battle River Watershed Alliance discusses aquatic invasive species during a field day at Riverdale mini-Park near Wainwright. Supplied
Public works director James Sacker has spent his first month on the job familiarizing himself with the community, but it does not take a moment for him to know goldfish don’t belong in our ponds.
“I know they’re pretty fish but they’re pretty much a nuisance,” said Sacker, drawing on his knowledge of Fort McMurry’s experience with the creatures in one of their storm ponds.
Camrose would not be the first community to catch goldfish if multiple reports of the creatures in a storm water pond behind Safeway turn out to be true.
As the city looks at possible management options, residents are reminded to respect natural populations in aquatic ecosystems by not releasing foreign species into their homes.
“They were never here naturally so it gets difficult on anything that was living there,” said Sacker. “Then the real risk is if they did manage to get out of the pond and into a water way then they get all over the place.”
Battle River Watershed Alliance watershed planning co-ordinator Sarah Skinner said the key to handling invasive species is early detection, as small populations sizes are more manageable.
To this end, monitoring of invasive species in the province is ongoing and something everyday citizens can play a role in.
As aquatic invasive species, both plant and animal, are primarily contact spread, it is important to clean, drain and dry watercraft and equipment and to refrain from releasing pets plants into natural ecosystems to prevent the proliferation unwelcome species.
Species on the radar this year include Eurasian Milfoil, a tricky aquatic plant very similar in appearance to the native Northern Milfoil; a grass-like weed called phragmites and flowering rush, an exotic purple plant that has been introduced into several Alberta wetlands.
Monitoring for zebra and quagga mussels is also ongoing throughout the province. A simple way to contribute to the monitoring effort is to lower a rope into a body of water and pull it up periodically to check for mussels — Skinner said an attached mussel is an invasive mussel. Findings, or lack thereof, can be reported to Alberta Environment and Parks via the provincial app and website Eddmaps.
At this point, there hasn’t been sufficient monitoring to really have a grasp on when species are organically shifting in distribution and type, but a telling factor that a species is alright to remain in an ecosystem is if it is able to join without overrunning it.
“If it is through its presence the only species there because it’s wiped out everything else, I’d say that’s not a sustainable thing. There’s not an ecosystem there if there’s just a single species,” said Skinner.
All invasive species share a similar story: as they rapidly reproduce along a shoreline, they choke out native species, thereby inhibiting the important functions that healthy shorelines should provide and imposing on the natural habitat.
It is thus important to monitor ecosystems to determine the impact or potential impact of introduced species. Skinner said an important piece of this is finding out which organizations are best suited to take on the long-term monitoring of these systems, but there is a big contribution to be made by everyday citizens as well.
The Battle River Watershed Alliance places an emphasis on education for people of all ages who live, work and play in a watershed. They run a number of in-school programs and summer camps as well as various other initiatives to raise awareness of about how we can help protect our watershed, what are some of the challenges facing our watershed and those beneficial practices that people can help put in place to help maintain or improve the health of land and water in our region.
Of course, a central part of this is providing opportunities for people to get out and about in the beautiful natural spaces in the region.
“That just helps to foster a sense of appreciation and love for this region,” said Skinner.
“I think once you know and love a place then you have that extra drive to protect it into the future.”