An Interview with Graham Peters – MB Conservation Coordinator

At the Boreal Ecology Centre (BEC) in East Braintree, MB, Graham Peters, A Rocha Manitoba’s Conservation Coordinator, is working to address the rapid expansion of Scots Pine, an invasive tree species. Earlier this month, the A Rocha Manitoba team went up to the BEC to begin the process of Scots Pine removal. We connected with Graham to find out more about his experience.

What do you do at A Rocha and why did you get involved?

Graham Peters, young man, smiling in front of trees.

I’m the Conservation Science Coordinator for A Rocha, so I’m working to start up a number of projects at the BEC. We want to start to learn more about the ecosystems out there and what we can do to conserve them.

I got involved because I’ve had somewhat of a long-standing relationship with A Rocha and the BEC specifically. I interned a few years ago managing and mapping the trails out there, so I developed a relationship with the place. Beyond that, I’ve always cared about the environment, learning more about it and working to protect it, and A Rocha was an awesome opportunity to do that.

What is an invasive species and why is it important to address this problem?

An invasive species is a plant or animal (an oversimplification for our purposes) not native to an area that has since been introduced. Once introduced, it disrupts the natural ecosystem. The native species have never experienced them before, so they don’t know how to compete and that lack of competition gives the invader an edge, often dominating an area at the expense of native species.

And that is really why it’s such an important issue; because invasive species put native species at risk. This isn’t to say one species is good and another is bad; one simply doesn’t belong, so it’s threatening a pre-existing ecosystem. It’s like adding a new weight to an already balanced scale, it’s going to start to tip.

What is Scots Pine? What effects is it having in Manitoba?

The Scots Pine is a tree native to Europe that was introduced in the 1920s and 30s by people. They do particularly well in sunny areas, which make Manitoba grasslands particularly susceptible. And that’s how they’ve spread. Planted Scots Pines have encroached into meadows virtually unopposed.

Woman cutting town Scots Pine tree, and young man pulling small tree behind her.What is the purpose of removal?

The purpose of removing the Scots Pine is to protect the meadow. This is a space that is filled with all kinds of wildflowers and grasses. We want to preserve the area because they are already extremely rare in Manitoba, so every grassland area is precious. By removing these invasive trees, we hope to work at restoring this habitat.

What are your plans for the Scots Pine after removal?

It is really fortunate that it is safe to repurpose the wood material, since only the cones are capable of reproduction. We plan to heat kill the cones so that we can avoid causing any further spread. Beyond that, the logs we plan to use for firewood at the lodge and taking a few to make into tree cookies which we can use to teach kids about how trees grow. It’s a cool little cross section of the tree that shows off the rings inside. The branches we hope to woodchip and use for our trails, but for now we’ve been using them as food for some local goats!

How can people “fight” invasive species in their everyday lives?

The biggest thing you can do to “fight” invasive species is prevent their spread. That means not transporting firewood long distances, or washing your boat before moving to a new river or lake. These are places where invasive beetles and mussels (respectively) hitchhike, allowing them to continue their spread.

Another way is just to plant native species. There are so many beautiful native shrubs and flowers that you can use. This prevents any unintentional spread, and increases the population of the native species we want to see more of.

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