The ornamental plant trade is the largest pathway for the introduction of non-native invasive plant species in Canada. Preventing introductions and reducing the spread of these plants is the most cost-effective means to protect against their harmful impacts.
To protect our economy, environment and public health from non-native invasive plant species, we are calling for:
- National leadership to improve policies and legislation.
- Establishment of a permanent national body with responsibility for non-native invasive species.
- The creation of a science-based national plant risk assessment database. This database would provide the name and description of non-native plants sold in Canada along with regional rankings as a high, medium, low, or insignificant invasion risk. Plant risk assessments would include potential threats to the environment and public health. They would be conducted by scientists in consultation with stakeholders.
- All imports of plants new to Canada undergo risk assessments (paid for by importers).
- Bans on the sale and movement of high-risk invasive plant species, where regionally appropriate.
- Labelling to identify and educate the public about lower-risk invasive plants.
- Continued and stable funding for public education.
- Incentives for the adoption of the National Voluntary Code of Conduct. This would prevent the introduction and spread of invasive plants.
Prevention is Key
The increasing numbers of invasive plants entering Canada each year are having serious ecological and socio-economic consequences. Invasive non-native species spread quickly and the cost for their removal escalates over time making management nearly impossible. Preventing their introduction and establishment in our environment with legislation is the most logical and cost-effective course of action. Canada’s legislative framework on invasive plants is fragmented. Improved coordinated regulation is needed at the federal, provincial and territorial levels.
The Time to Act is NOW – Help to Spread the Word
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We Can No Longer Afford to Ignore the Consequences
Invasive Alien Plant Species (IAPS) cause harm to the environment, the economy and human health. They can impact agriculture, forestry, recreation, biodiversity, ecosystem health, and public health. Control of these species costs hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Additionally, there are the inestimable costs to our natural environment — our life support system.
Ecological Costs and Consequences
Invasive plants can:
- Suppress or displace native plant species
- Disrupt essential food webs and impact wildlife
- Change litter decomposition, soil formation, soil chemistry and the distribution of soil organisms
- Reduce the availability of resources, like water or nutrients
- Impair essential ecosystem function and services, like pollination
- Diminish native habitats
- Reduce genetic diversity and global biodiversity
- Increased hazards to human health (poisonings, allergies, dermatitis, injuries, disease – Lyme disease, West Nile virus)
- Threats to food production
- Diminished recreational opportunities (bird watching, hiking, camping)
- Depression and mental health impacts associated with losses and management
- Loss of our unique natural legacy (Indigenous cultural heritage, maple sugar production, beauty of Canadian landscapes)
- Costs for removal or control
- Negative impacts on agriculture, forestry and fisheries
- Loss of revenue from tourism, hunting, fishing and recreation
- Damage to infrastructure (e.g. drainage systems, transportation corridors)
- Increased risks of fire, erosion, and property damage
- Reduced property values
How Invasive Plants Arrive in Canada
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the horticultural trade is the largest pathway for the intentional introduction of invasive plant species. Many invasive plants arrive as garden ornamentals and are sold to consumers who are unaware of their negative impacts.
Measures to prevent the spread of ornamental invasive plants at provincial or territorial borders are inconsistent or non-existent. Ontario is the only province that employs an explicit Invasive Species statute. Other provinces have regulatory tools, such as Alberta’s Weed Control Act and Manitoba’s Water Protection Amendment Act. A very small number of invasive plants in the horticultural trade are currently regulated.
A Growing Opportunity
While restrictions on invasive plants may be disruptive in the short term, there are opportunities for innovation – including potential for expanding local markets. Innovative nursery growers can capitalize on regional botanical uniqueness. Importers and breeders should focus on non-invasive plants that support our native pollinators, wildlife and or food production. This process can be transformative for the industry and ultimately benefit all Canadians and global biodiversity.
We must work together to stem the tide of invasive plant species. Legislation is needed now to reduce the escalating costs of management and protect our unique and precious heritage. By protecting our natural heritage from degradation, present and future generations can continue to enjoy the economic, social, and cultural opportunities a healthy environment provides.
The Canadian Coalition for Invasive Plant Regulation (CCIPR) formed in early 2022 in response to an outcry from the public, voiced on the 28,500-member Master Gardeners of Ontario (MGOI) Facebook social media platform. A proposal to regulate plants in the horticultural trade was drafted by MGOI, a charitable organization dedicated to educating the public about sustainable gardening practices. A coalition of volunteers, representing organizations and individuals from across Ontario, then joined together around these objectives to become the Canadian Coalition for Invasive Plant Regulation. We are at the initial stages of organizing and building capacity. Individuals and organizations across Canada are invited to join and participate. Read Our Real-Life Origin Story.
Photo adapted from Helft Keitel