Invasive species pose a threat

What do the zebra mussel, yellow starthistle and Brazilian elodea have in common?

There is concern that quagga mussels will find their way into Okanagan lakes.

There is concern that quagga mussels will find their way into Okanagan lakes.

What do the zebra mussel, yellow starthistle and Brazilian elodea have in common? They are all invasive species that do not occur in B.C.  They are, however, right on our door step.

Invasive Species Week runs until Sunday and a number of public events are planned.

“Invasive species know no boundaries; they span landscapes, land ownerships and jurisdictions,” said Lisa Scott, Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society co-ordinator.

“Because of this, it’s imperative that we work co-operatively to address the issue. We all need to take responsibility.”

Invasive species are plants, animals, aquatic life and micro-organisms that out-compete native species when introduced outside of their natural environment. They can come from across the country or across the globe.

These unwelcome invaders create an imbalance in nature by competing for the same resources that native species need to survive. The economic costs associated with invasive species in Canada are measured in the tens of billions of dollars, and those costs are escalating.

Of particular concern in the Okanagan Valley is the potential arrival of zebra and quagga mussels.

“These freshwater invertebrates rapidly colonize hard surfaces and can clog water-intake structures, impact recreation and devastate local fisheries,” said Scott.

“In the Okanagan, the effects of their invasion would be felt at the commercial activity level, throughout the tourism sector and at the ecological level. Direct costs and lost revenues are estimated to be $42 million per year.”

Scott said prevention of harmful new invasions is the first priority, as it is the most cost-effective way to deal with the problem.

“Once species are established, the task becomes far more complex and costly. The issue of invasive aquatic species is a particularly hot topic this year and it’s the focus of an Okanagan-wide campaign this summer.”

Invasive Species Week will see OASISS representatives at the Vernon Farmers Market Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Lake Country Farmers Market Friday from 3 to 5 p.m., Paddlewheel Park Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Cosens Bay Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. and Kekuli Bay Provincial Park Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Go to www.oasiss.ca for more information.