TWU students were on Salt Spring Island helping fight invasive species in the Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve. (TWU professor David Clements/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

GREEN BEAT: Langley students join fight against invasive species

Invasive species action from weeding to watching, what actions did you take to tackle this issue?

By David Clements/Special to the Langley Advance Times

Last month was proclaimed invasive species action month by the BC Invasive Species Council.

There were many ways to get involved in these kinds of actions in Langley, or wherever you live.

My Trinity Western University students and I were involved in two actions on Salt Spring Island, where I was teaching a plant ecology course.

The first was to tackle the thistles and Scotch broom plants infesting the Salt Spring Island Conservancy’s Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve. We took on that action together with Grade 6 students from John Calvin Christian School in Yarrow.

The second action was to remove some Scotch broom at the bed and breakfast where our class is staying. We removed two truckloads of Scotch broom, and took it to a local firehall, which was accepting invasive plants for one day only, to be chipped and composted.

It is always very rewarding to amass large loads of invasive plant material. Even though it can be a lot of work, the reward of “doing a good deed” is a strong incentive.

However, there are other types of actions on invasive species issues that are perhaps not as glamorous, but actually more important in the long run – such as planting native plants.

Just “fighting a war” on invasive species, as these efforts often have been termed, misses the point.

Win or lose the war, what we really want is a healthy habitat. If we just walk away after wacking the weeds, how do we know something good is going to grow in their place?

Invasive species are only the symptoms of the root problem.

Scotch broom and thistles spring up where an area has been artificially disturbed by humans.

The Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve was formerly a golf course, and so was subject to all kinds of different artificial disturbances to ensure the greens were green and the fairways were fair.

The conservancy has been working hard to remove old drainage pipes, plant native species and create new wetlands to increase the biodiversity.

Still, the way ahead for the reserve is unclear, according to Salt Spring Island Conservancy executive director, Christine Torgrimson.

They are keeping a sharp eye on what happens as they try various methods to rehabilitate the former golf course. Sometimes even the “watching” that Christine is speaking of qualifies as an action.

What was your action? Weeding, planting, watering, or watching?

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– David Clements PhD, is a professor of biology and environmental studies at Trinity Western University

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