The following article was taken from Northern News Services Online.
Research project examines changes new pipelines could bring to region
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 27, 2011
LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON – Non-indigenous plant species have a foothold in the Mackenzie Valley and more are expected to arrive as new transportation routes and pipelines are built in the region according to a research project.
Dawn Bazely, an associate professor of biology at York University, was in Fort Simpson from Jan. 13 to 16 to report on the findings of a project that was carried out in 2008.
Biologist Dawn Bazely, left, discusses the findings of a research project on non-indigenous plant species in the Mackenzie Valley with Fort Simpson residents Pam FitzRoy and Teresa Chilkowich. – Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo
That summer, Bazely and two colleagues visited four communities along the proposed route of the Mackenzie Gas Project to look for the presence of non-indigenous plant species along roadsides and other transportation routes.
The research was part of a larger study called GAPS (Gas, Arctic Peoples and Security) that examined the affects of oil and gas industries on people in the Arctic. Part of the International Polar Year, GAPS was conducted by researchers in Canada, Russia and Norway.
For her section of GAPS Bazely focused on how ecosystems might change along pipeline routes, particularly with the movement of non-indigenous plant species into the North.
The research will provide a baseline to measure future changes against, she said.
As they expected, the team found that Fort Simpson — their first study point — had a higher number of non-indigenous plant species compared to Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope and Inuvik.
This isn’t surprising because Fort Simpson is the most southerly, has the most forgiving climate and has many routes in including roads and a pre-existing pipeline, Bazely said.
Most of the species found in the village were in gardens and along roadsides. Those on the roadside have yet to creep into the bush.
“As things warm inevitably they’ll spread,” Bazely said.
Most non-indigenous species come and invade and don’t have negative impacts, said Bazely. Inevitably, however, some species will arrive that do.
The team did find a fungus they were looking for that lives in some grasses eaten by animals.
Because the fungus was in higher concentrations along the roadways the team suspects it came up in southern seed mixes.
If ingested, the fungus can make animals sick. The findings support the need for local seed material to be used on reseeding projects, she said.
Bazely cautioned that the issue of non-indigenous plants isn’t black and white but is more value based.
People do benefit from a lot of introduced species including food plants like potatoes, she said.
As part of their research the territorial government asked the team to also examine how residents might want to identify new species.
There were a lot of opinions on the subject, Bazely said.
“People were interested in participating and learning about and motoring for newly arrived species,” she said.
The team is producing a report for the government on on invasive species planning. Some of the other findings from the project will be published in scientific journals.
Bazely said she was pleased to be able to return to the North to share the findings with the communities that were studied.