A look at the new additions to Ontario’s invasive species list

A large South American rodent that authorities say is often confused with a beaver, along with two types of non-native crayfish, are among 10 new species of invasive animals and plants now banned or restricted in Ontario .

A semi-aquatic herbivore called an otter, whose Latin name (Myocastor coypus) translates to “mouse rat,” is the only mammal on the province’s updated invasive species list, which came into effect Jan. 1.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the otter poses a threat to the local ecosystem as its digging and foraging behavior (essentially boring stream banks and wetlands and nibbling on roots) significantly impacts agricultural areas and can increase risks. of floods. It can also transmit parasites and diseases to humans, pets and livestock.

Otters are about two feet long and weigh up to 20 pounds with a long tail, white whiskers, and large front teeth.

Colin Cassin, policy director for the Invasive Species Center, told CP24.com that the otter was first introduced to the United States in 1899 and was farmed in captivity for its fur until about 1940, when demand declined to the point that this industry no longer existed. It is no longer profitable.

Many otters were then released into the wild and began to reproduce rapidly.

They are now present in at least 20 US states, including Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington, but have not yet been detected in Ontario.

“Fast forward 50, 60, 70 years and here we are dealing with an emerging invasive species problem,” Cassin said.

He also noted two types of crayfish, the genus Procambarus and the genus Pacifastacus, which have also been added to the list of invasive species in Ontario.

These types of crayfish, which reproduce by cloning, compete with local crayfish and fish species for food and shelter. They are also known to hide on the edges of wetlands and cause significant damage.

In North America, there is only one known wild population of marbled crab (Procambarus) in Burlington, Ontario.

“(Otters and crayfish) are very different, but they are both being regulated because they have similar impacts,” Cassin said, adding that while the province’s wetlands are key places for biodiversity, they face a number of factors. notable stressors.

The additional impacts of invasive species only make it more difficult for these sensitive ecosystems to thrive, he explained.

Under provincial regulations, crayfish are listed as an aquatic invasive species of concern throughout Alberta. Bill Macfarlane reports.

Three types of fish have been included on the provincial list of prohibited invasive species. They include ide, which can introduce parasites, transmit viruses and diseases, and compete with native fish; eastern and western mosquitofish, which can compete with native fish species for food and habitat by aggressively feeding on zooplankton, eggs and larvae, leading to loss of biodiversity and the potential loss of some native species in Ontario; and red glow, which can reduce native fish populations through predation on eggs and larvae, genetic impacts through hybridization, and introduction of parasites.

There are also two new aquatic plants banned in Ontario: oxygen grass and the genus Salvinia (water moss). In both cases, their dense colonies can overwhelm native vegetation as well as fish populations, negatively impact water quality, and impede recreational activities such as boating and swimming.

Under Ontario’s Invasive Species Act, it is illegal to import, possess, deposit, release, transport, propagate (breed/cultivate), purchase, sell, lease or trade the aforementioned invasive species.

Ontario has also announced that it will impose restrictions, also starting January 1, on four types of aquatic plants: Eurasian watermilfoil, floating primrose willow, flowering rush and the genus Azolla (aquatic ferns), as well as one terrestrial plant. called Tree of Heaven.

These plants can cause a variety of negative outcomes in the local ecosystem, including overtaking native vegetation, negatively affecting water quality, preventing recreational activities such as boating and swimming, creating habitat for mosquitoes, displacing native riparian vegetation, forming dense stands that impact industrial and recreational activities. shallow water uses, reducing native fish habitat/increasing invasive fish habitat and negatively affecting wild rice populations.

Tree of Life is especially concerning, Cassin said, because it can change chemical and microbial activity in soils, reduce soil nutrients and displace native plant species. It is also associated with several pathogenic fungi and is the preferred host of the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). Infestations of this insect, he said, are known to devastate grape, hop and fruit crops. The closest known The lanternfly population is located in Buffalo, New York.

This Sept. 19, 2019, file photo shows a spotted lanternfly in a vineyard in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

In Ontario it is illegal to deposit or release restricted invasive species. They are also prohibited from placing them in a provincial park or conservation reserve.

The ultimate goal of restricting or banning certain non-native animals and plants is to prevent, control and reduce their spread and the harmful effects they may cause.

It can also be difficult and It is expensive to control or eradicate non-native species. once they have taken root in the ecosystem.

It is estimated that Ontario municipalities and conservation authorities spend $51 million annually to prevent and manage the spread of invasive species. The emerald ash borer infestation, which was first detected in the province in 2002, was especially costly to control and continues to this day, although at a slower rate, Cassin said.

“Invasive species damage our ecosystems, impact our ability to enjoy outdoor activities, and harm our economy by threatening the forestry and agricultural sectors,” said Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, in a news release dated August 11. December.

“That’s why we are taking action to restrict these invasive species to protect Ontario’s economy and ecosystems.”

Ontario has the highest number of invasive and/or carrier species in the country and since 2015 has placed legal restrictions or prohibitions on almost 50 of them.

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