Funding fuels research for fight against invasive plants

Cutting-edge research has become the weapon of choice in the war against weeds.

  • Sep. 1, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Cutting-edge research has become the weapon of choice in the war against weeds.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Invasive Plant Society is leading the way on a multi-year project alongside the Nature Trust and Weyerhaeuser to not only combat invasive plant species in the region, but recommend how best to battle bad backcountry plant varietals in the future.

Through Nature Trust of B.C., SOSIPS has been granted $50,000 from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative over three years to find the most effective way to reduce the spread of invasive plants in vulnerable ecosystems in B.C.’s southern interior.

“In the weed world, funding is scarce,” SOSIPS co-ordinator Lisa Scott said. “It’s great to have that three-year commitment from SFI for the project. There’s lasting, long-term benefits for multiple agencies.”

SOSIPS is currently building an inventory of invasive plant species by surveying Weyerhaeuser operating ares and identifying which plants to target. They are also looking at possible research sites, where Scott said “the crux of the project” will begin.

“Right now forestry companies have their set mixes and they only have about two,” she explained, adding vegetation responds different at 500 and 2,000 metres elevation, let alone various soil conditions.

“We don’t want to come up with 50 mixes. But we want to come up with grass seed mixes that are best-suited to the variable forested habitat and help compete with the invasive plants and help prevent the spread of them.”

Scott said the implications of the study will likely benefit more than just Weyerhaeuser: the Ministry of Transportation uses one grass seed — the dryland interior seed mix — for an area that spans as far as Osoyoos to Williams Lake and east to Cranbrook.

“We’re all so different. Our soils are different. Our climates are different,” she said. “They spend all this money hydro-seeding, and it all turns to weeds. You have to vary what you’re putting in.”

Scott said SOSIPS is also doing some herbicides trials as well, reviewing how herbicides, seed mixes and a combination of both affect invasive plants.

“We’re trying to come up with the most practical, effective solution to manage invasive plants in these forested sites,” she said.

“It’s not just about logging. These areas are also used as important range land for livestock, important wildlife habitat and recreational activities on these landscapes.”

One of the main invasive plants SOSIPS is looking for includes hawkweeds, including orange and many yellow varieties as well.

“They could have toxic properties to livestock or wildlife, and there may be human health concerns possibly as well,” she said.

Trials will be set up this fall, and inventory will continue during the next field season in 2012 to cover any gaps in mapping. Research will be ongoing through to 2013, when they’ll share their findings and present an educational component to logging companies, ranchers, government agencies and others.

Government has also taken note of the project. Local MLAs recently announced $29,700 in support of treatment for high-risk invasive plant species on Crown land, surveys of new occurrences and monitoring efficacy of treatment.

“It’s encouraging that the government is financially contributing; however, at a provincial level, we’re still lacking long-term consistent funding. That’s our biggest battle,” she said.

“We are working the provincial government and the Invasive Plant Council of B.C. to seek solutions for long-term stable funding.”

Scott said the government funding complements the SFI grant, and expands the inventory outside of Weyerhaeuser operating land and target lower elevations.

“We wouldn’t have invasive plant issues if we didn’t disturb soils,” she said. “If we disturb the soils, it’s important that we revegetate them where we can. But we need the knowledge of the best tools.”

To amass those tools, Scott said partnerships are key.

“Weeds know no boundaries, and nobody has an open wallet,” she said.

For information about invasive plants and SOSIPS, visit www.sosips.ca.