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Posted: April 4, 2012

Our Changing Ecosystems, the invasive species threat

On April 17 the East Kootenay Invasive Plant Council will be hosting its fourth annual general meeting and Speaker Series ‘Our Changing Ecosystems.’

As residents and visitors to this region are well aware, the East Kootenay is home to some of the most spectacular landscapes anywhere on the planet. These landscapes house an intricate web of flora and fauna that form multiple interconnected ecosystems, from the world renowned Columbia Wetlands to the spectacular grasslands of the Rocky Mountain Trench to the old growth forests of the Elk Valley, these diverse ecosystems have evolved over millennia and provide this region with a strong economic and cultural backbone.

Healthy, resilient ecosystems are often characterized by an abundance of diversity, yet one of the biggest threats to ecosystem diversity is the introduction and spread of invasive species. These introduced species have the ability to reproduce rapidly and out-compete native species while largely existing free from predation and disease. As habitat is lost to these introduced species, native species may become rare, endangered or even extirpated. As species are lost, ecosystems become less diverse and thus less resilient. In some cases invasive species can completely wipe out entire ecosystems, replacing them with virtual monocultures.

Think for a moment how the introduction of zebra mussels into the Great Lakes has impacted those ecosystems and resulted in economic impacts tallied in the billions of dollars.  Now consider that already in 2012, six boats in Idaho have been intercepted carrying live Quagga Mussels (pictured above).  If one boat carrying one live mussel were to put in to Lake Koocanusa we would be witness to one of the biggest environmental disasters this region has seen.

The East Kootenay Invasive Plant Council (EKIPC) will be exploring this and other ideas related to Our Changing Ecosystems at our Annual Speaker Series and AGM on April 17 at the Prestige Inn in Cranbrook. We have secured an exciting lineup of speakers to discuss ecosystem change from a number of different perspectives.

Kelly Cooley, the Southern Alberta weed coordinator, will kick things off with his insightful and entertaining perspective on invasive species and ecosystem change. The renowned and respected Thomas Woolf (Aquatic Plant Program Manager for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture) will then present on his experiences with aquatic invasive species in Idaho and the threat that is posed to the East Kootenay if any of these species are ever introduced here.

Michael Keefer (Keefer Ecological Services Inc.) will be presenting on plant and grass species used in reclamation and how they are changing our native ecosystems. We are also very lucky to have Lesley Tannen, the executive director of the BC Landscape and Nursery Association present on the horticulture industry and the new and updated ‘Grow Me Instead’ publication that will be available for the first time at the AGM.

EKIPC Coordinator, Marty Hafke will wrap things up with a presentation on EKIPC’s exciting projects for 2012 as well as some concrete ideas on how individuals and groups can get involved.

We invite you to come on down and join the discussion. Pre registration is required.  To register, contact EKIPC Coordinator Marty Hafke at 1-888-55-EKIPC or [email protected]


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