Ontario municipalities and conservation authorities spend millions on invasive species
The potential impacts on agriculture, fisheries, forests, healthcare, tourism, and the recreation industry from invasive species are estimated to be $3.6 billion per year in Ontario.
Sault Ste. Marie, ON – A 2019 report from the Invasive Species Centre, calculates that Ontario municipalities and conservation authorities spend an estimated $50.8 million per year on invasive species management. The cost is felt most in urban areas, where expenditures are estimated at over $1 million annually per municipality.
When surveyed, invasive species managers in Ontario municipalities and conservation authorities indicated that emerald ash borer continues to be the costliest species. Collectively, close to $30M was spent last year managing emerald ash borer alone. Other notable species include zebra and quagga mussels, gypsy moth, and invasive plants such as Phragmites and wild parsnip, which combined cost almost $20M across Ontario to manage.
These expenses will continue to increase if more invasive species are able to establish and spread in Ontario. For example, oak wilt, caused by an invasive disease that kills oak trees, has been found in Michigan less than 1 km from Windsor, Ontario. If this disease were to spread through Ontario’s oak trees, the impacts would be devastating. In the GTA alone, preliminary estimates predict costs of $66.5 million to cut and replace oak trees along city streets.
With species like oak wilt, proactive measures are necessary to protect our resources.
“Once a species is introduced into a new area you may have an opportunity to eradicate it, but once it becomes widespread, you are making huge investments just to protect your assets,” explains Robert Lambe, board president of the Invasive Species Centre, “Financially and ecologically, the best results come from preventing the introduction of invasive species to a new area and controlling them when they are at manageable levels.”
Management expenditures by municipalities and conservation authorities on invasive species are just a fraction of the total economic impact and do not include substantial federal, provincial, and private expenditures. Ontario’s ecological biodiversity, societal values, and natural resource industry are all experiencing impacts. The potential impacts on agriculture, fisheries, forests, healthcare, tourism, and the recreation industry from invasive species are estimated to be $3.6 billion per year in Ontario. To learn more about these economic impacts, view the Invasive Species Centre’s factsheet.
“We may never be able to eradicate invasive species entirely but, we can help stop their spread by controlling or removing species as they arise, ultimately reducing the long-term costs of doing nothing.” says James Lane, Manager of Natural Heritage and Forestry at the Regional Municipality of York and co-chair of the Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario Urban Forestry Sub-committee. “In some cases, where they threaten the function of infrastructure or pose a risk to public health and safety, we don’t have a choice. Invasive species in Ontario are coming at a cost, whether you realize it or not. They are impacting us all, in one way or another. They are not just a natural heritage issue.”
All Canadians can help to prevent the spread of invasive species and reduce the economic burden. Along with awareness, simple steps such as buying local firewood, cleaning boats, trailers, and outdoor equipment between sites, and properly disposing of bait can prevent new invasive species from arriving or spreading in Ontario. Any invasive species sightings can be reported to EDDMapS Ontario or Ontario’s invasive species hotline at 1-800-563-7711.
The factsheet and full study were conducted by the Invasive Species Centre in partnership with the Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Figure 1: Japanese knotweed growing
through asphalt. Photo by K. Reese, Regional
Municipality of York
Figure 2: Zebra mussels can impact aquatic ecosystems
and cause significant economic damage. Photo by USFWS.