- Deepen their awareness of the need to curb invasive species and conserve native animals and plants for the sake of ecosystem health.
- Understand the meaning of the term "restoration cycle."
- Develop a plan to prevent the introduction and spread of alien species, control their populations, monitor their presence, and restore native wildlife and habitats.
- Tackle one or more action initiatives, such as a public awareness campaign, weed pull, monitoring study, or native plant restoration project.
Students develop and take steps to implement a strategic plan to prevent the introduction and spread of alien species, control their populations, monitor their presence, and restore native wildlife and habitat.
poster paper, markers, paints, and other art media
Unless you inhabit some hidden realm that has not been invaded by alien species, you will need a strategy to help address this very real ecological problem. One highly recommended course of action - known as the "restoration cycle" - involves preventing the arrival of non-native newcomers, controlling or eradicating them, monitoring their presence, and finally restoring native animals and plants to their natural habitats.
School and community volunteers in British Columbia have done just that, in an effort to protect the ecological integrity of the Garry oak meadows, woodlands, and grasslands. These unique and sensitive ecosystems in the southwestern corner of the province have been overrun by gorse, ivy, blackberry, and particularly Scotch broom. By raising awareness about this incursion, keeping an eye out for new infestations, holding "broom bashes" to weed out herbaceous invaders, and propagating and planting native camas, chocolate lily, Nootka rose, and Garry oak, the volunteers have made great gains in "spelling doom for broom."
- Having surveyed your site (see "Alien Impacts – Assess the Mess"), get the class together for a brainstorming session. Use student observations to determine which conservation concerns to address. For example, do you want to eradicate a particular species, such as purple loosestrife, or a wide array of non-native invaders; re-establish a colony of endangered plants, such as prairie lupine, or a diversity of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Most likely, your efforts will target a variety of restoration goals. Whether or not your objectives are clear, be sure to seek expert advice from one of the regional wildlife agencies listed on the back of this booklet.
- Using the resource sheet "Aliens Among Us" and the background text above, review the restoration cycle with your students. Tell them that they are going to develop a plan modelled on this strategy, from preventing the introduction of aliens, to controlling their populations, to monitoring their presence, to restoring native wildlife and habitat.
- Draw up a plan that includes both long- and short-term goals upon which your students can focus their efforts. Be specific about restoration goals, where and when you will target them, who will do what, how many people will be involved, and how wildlife and habitat will benefit. Include the following steps in your plan:
- Prevention. The preventative measures you take today, such as stopping the dumping of plastic garbage that can ferry invasive animals and plants to distant shores, are much better medicine than tomorrow's cure. One key to preventing an alien invasion in the first place is to raise the awareness of your students, school, and community. If you've come this far in the learning process, then your students' awareness of invasive species, how they are transported, and how they affect natural environments should be quite advanced. Here are some ways in which your students can alert your school and community of the alien threat:
- Create "wanted" - or "unwanted" - posters identifying an alien offender, including its name, image, distinguishing features, how it gets around, the "crimes" it is charged with, and the ecological reward for its arrest. Students can put up their posters in the classroom, school hallway, community centre, or other public place.
- Post information signs wherever people gain access to bodies of water, including boat launches, docks, and marinas. The signs should warn anglers, sailors, canoeists, and other outdoor enthusiasts to avoid moving zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, round gobies, and other exotic trespassers from one aquatic spot to another. Similar signs could be created to remind nature lovers, like birders and hikers, to avoid transporting fragments or seeds of invasive plants, such as European frog-bit, flowering rush, and purple loosestrife.
- Create a brochure for distribution to bait shops, pet shops, garden centres, and any other point of purchase for potential invaders. Suggest that retailers advise their customers never to release non-indigenous animals or plants into natural areas, especially known alien intruders, such as European wall lizards, red-eared sliders, rusty crayfish, Eurasian water-milfoil, and domestic cats.
- Other helpful ways to get the prevention message across include news releases, public service announcements, humorous cartoons, and mall displays. The more people who know about the alien invasion, the better!
- Control. Once you've learned which non-native animals and plants have invaded your survey site or community, it's time to investigate control techniques. The usual approaches include: mechanical (mowing, plowing, and containing); chemical (herbicides, insecticides, and lampricides); biological (insect predators, diseases, and "natural enemies"); and manual (pulling, cutting, and removing) methods of control. Only manual methods are suitable for students and cause the least "collateral damage" to wildlife and the environment. If you spot an alien invasion, be sure to inform affected landowners and your municipality so that they can take the appropriate action. Then, offer to help attend to the problem.
- Monitoring. Watching over terrestrial and aquatic habitats is an early warning system that research scientists use to detect ecological change. By keeping an eye on alien invaders, we can measure changes in their populations and distributions over time, prevent their spread through early detection, gauge the success of control techniques, and contribute to scientific initiatives to banish these unwelcome visitors. Perhaps the most urgent need for monitoring is to identify the impacts of invasive species on endangered animals and plants. Monitoring activities have traditionally been the domain of professional biologists, but the growing impact of exotic intruders on native wildlife and habitat demands more widespread participation, especially from student volunteers. Students can help by getting involved in existing monitoring studies or by launching their own biological survey in their schoolyard or community.
- Restoration. With prevention, control, and monitoring efforts underway, the scene is set to restore native species that have been diminished or driven away and to regain the health of envi-ronments damaged by alien aggressors. Wildlife habitat projects completed by students provide an infusion of life to natural areas that are the worse for wear. Be sure to garden with native and naturalized species when carrying out planting projects.
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