Invasive Plants: The Alberta Native Plant Council
In 2010, the Alberta Native Plant Council received an Emerald Award for their work with native plant conservation and awareness-building. The plant council has continued to do great work since then for important plant species and communities. Now, I must admit that when I picked this organization to feature in my series, I did not know all that much about it. However, I was interested in native plants, their importance, and their relationship to invasives species. Thus, the Alberta Native Plant Council seemed like an interesting choice. In order to find out more, I decided to ask a few questions as you can see below. A wonderful council member, Eri Hiraga, thoughtfully responded to my inquiries.
What can people here in Alberta do to counter the spread of invasive plants and what does your organization do in this regard?
One of the easiest ways to counter the spread of invasive plants in Alberta is to avoid using them and favoring the use of native plant species instead. Many people inadvertently introduce or contribute to the spread of invasive plants by planting them in their gardens. Many weeds are planted as garden ornamentals, such as common baby’s breath, yellow clematis, dame’s rocket, etc. The ANPC encourages the use of native plants in gardens and landscaping and provide guidance on helping to choose and source the appropriate native species.
The Alberta Native Plant Council has put together “Posey’s Rogues: A Gallery of Exotic Invasive and Non-native Plants of Alberta to help people ID non-native species. A link to Posey’s Rogues can be found on the ANPC website.
We encourage Albertans to check out the great resources available through the Alberta Invasive Species Council (https://www.abinvasives.ca/) for more information regarding invasive species. They have produced some great Fact Sheets on many invasive species.
Are there any particular native species that are particularly low in numbers or rare?
There are quite a few native species that are considered “rare” in Alberta. The Alberta Conservation Information Management System (ACIMS), a data center that provides biodiversity information on Alberta’s species, communities and sites, currently tracks both vascular and non-vascular plant species. Tracked species are those that ACIMS is collecting information on because the available information suggests they are rare or of conservation concern due to threats to the populations or habitats.
Why do native plants/local plant communities matter? Why bother with this kind of thing?
Protecting and restoring native plants and native plant communities is an important part of preserving biodiversity. Native plants are locally adapted to the climate of Alberta and are the foundation upon which our local ecosystems are built and function. A diverse ecosystem is generally more resilient to new stressors, such as climate change and invasive species introductions, and is important in maintaining healthy environment.
Any insight you have on why it's difficult to deal with invasive plants, and how we should approach this issue.
Invasive plants are often introduced or spread by humans and their activities, and tend to be concentrated in disturbed areas, or in areas where the environment has been degraded. They tend to be difficult to deal with because there aren’t always natural predators to keep them in check, allowing them to dominate on the landscape, threatening the biodiversity of native species and their habitats.
Tackling the issue of invasive plant species will require effort on the part of all Albertans. The AISC has some great resources on the things that people can do to prevent the spread of invasive species in Alberta.
How can people get involved in the plant council?
We now have a number of plant study groups that host monthly meetings, generally from October through April (outside of field season). We have groups in Peace River, Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Calgary, and Medicine Hat. Check out our website for more details. My personal experiences with the ANPC started by attending the Study Group run out of the University of Calgary Herbarium, where I had the privilege of meeting a large number of native plant enthusiasts active in Alberta. It is a great chance to share you interest and knowledge with people of varying skill levels.
We also host a number of events during the growing season, such as Botany Alberta, which gives people a great opportunity to get outdoors and experience native plants up close. We also host a workshop and AGM each year, with a focus on a particular aspect of native plants in Alberta. We bring in speakers with expertise in their field to share their knowledge with the workshop attendees. It is a great introduction to the work that we do at the ANPC and the network of other groups with similar objectives that are working in Alberta to promote native plants and their habitats.
We are a volunteer run organization and are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join the dedicated team of volunteers with the ANPC. We have a number of both elected and non-elected positions. We encourage anyone interest in the ANPC or its activities to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.