I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.







Thursday, January 6, 2011

Alien Species Exhibit

Well, I made it to the museum this morning.  Things were looking a little sketchy since my daughter is fighting a cold, but both kids made it to school and after a walk at the Cedar Hill Golf Course to kill some time I headed downtown.

I only bought parking for 1.5 hours and figured that would be sufficient.  I guess in a sense it was.  I spent my whole time browsing through the Behind the Scenes Exhibit and then the Alien Species Exhibit.  For a self proclaimed nature dork it was fantastic.  I spent a lot of time reading the articles they had posted and especially enjoyed the sections about plants, reptiles & amphibians, and birds.  The alien species exhibit was much smaller, and quicker to go through, but just as interesting.

I already had an awareness of many of the alien species, but there were probably equally as many that were new to me.  I would consider scotch broom, bullfrogs, starlings and eastern grey squirrels to be some of the usual suspects.  A few that I was surprised to see were manila clams, pacific oysters, a type of ladybug and some types of earthworms.  One distinction that I found useful to note is that while most species that exist here now, and are considered "native", had to come from somewhere they usually made it here on their own.  Possibly by birds in the case of plants, or eventual migration in the case of animals.  On the other hand alien species arrive with the help of humans either accidentally or intentionally.

An example of a species that had a helping hand would be starlings.  They were introduced in New York around the time of 1890 or 1891 by a group of Shakespeare enthusiasts.  Their goal was to bring over all of the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.  Depending on where you get your information either 30, or about 100, of the birds were released in Central Park.  By 1945 they had made their way to British Columbia and today there are in excess of 200 million starlings in North America.

Eastern Grey Squirrels have been introduced all over the world.  Their natural range was from the Gulf of Mexico in the south, to the eastern United States and maritimes, as far north as southern Ontario and Quebec and as far west as southern Manitoba.  Now you can find them in the United Kingdom, Ireland, many other parts of Europe as well as in Western Canada.  This is not an exhaustive list.  In many cases the squirrels escaped from zoos, or other captive accommodations.  In 1914 they were introduced to Stanley Park in Vancouver.  They began their colony on Vancouver Island in 1966 after two females and one male escaped from a game farm in Metchosin.  Eastern Grey Squirrels have proven to be highly adaptable and produce offspring twice per year.  In most cases they become more successful than native squirrel populations.

Of the alien species not previously know to me manila clams caught my eye.  I guess invasive shellfish hadn't really crossed my mind since it is more common to hear about the invasive plants and squirrels, or bullfrogs.  Manila clams were introduced to BC waters in the 1930s along with Pacifc Oyster larvae.  People were trying to establish a population of Pacific Oysters, but the conditions for reproduction were not ideal and so they continuously brought in the larvae.  It is thought that 6 species of clams and mussels, 7 species of snails, and 4 species of worms were imported with the larvae.  Manila clams were highly successful and today they are commercially harvested.  According to the exhibit at the Royal BC Museum it is not uncommon to allow for beaches to be modified in order to increase the yield of this popular clam.

As you can imagine I could go on, but to spare anyone who might actually read this I will stop there.  Suffice it to say that there are many alien species present in our ecosystem and those around the world.  In some cases their introduction does not have a huge impact, in too many cases their impact can be devastating.  There are many volunteer opportunities in the Victoria area to help groups who are trying to eradicate, or at least control, invasive species.  Every time I walk through Mt. Doug park I am reminded of the fact that many more hands are needed to get a handle on the ivy growth that threatens to take over portions of the park.  I suppose awareness of the different species is a good place to start. 

In addition to what I learned today browsing through the exhibits at the Royal British Columbia Museum I also read several articles I found on the internet.  I have included those links below.

http://www.stanleyparkecology.ca/programs/conservation/urbanWildlife/naturalHistory/squirrelEasternGrey.php
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=call-of-the-reviled

http://www.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/efauna/MarineInvasiveSpecies.html

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