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Green Team Greater Victoria tackles invasive species removal at UVic

Eco-stewardship group improving community connections, mental health as much as the environment
Amanda Evans, left, instructs Green Team Greater Victoria volunteers on where to cut invasive species. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

The Greater Victoria Green Team was once again in the thick of it, removing invasive foliage for the sake of protecting native species, this time at the University of Victoria’s Cunningham Woods.

The culprits of concern for volunteers the morning of Aug. 29 were English ivy, English holly and Himalayan blackberry invaders among native Douglas firs, arbutus, grand firs and maple trees of the woods adjacent UVic’s Department of Computer Science.

The ivy, holly and even blackberry have never been tasty to foraging animals or insects, said Amanda Evans, director of programs and partnerships with Green Teams of Canada. Since being introduced to the ecosystem about 100 years ago, they’ve thrived and grown year-round in the south Island climate.

“If we left this area and did nothing about the invasive plants, they would form like a blanket (on the forest floor),” Evans said. “It would form a dense monoculture, so we would lose the diversity of native plants.”

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As such, UVic’s campus planning and sustainability office has had an incredible interest in enlisting Greater Victoria Green Team’s volunteer plant removers for the past two years. On Sunday morning, the team included about 24 members, including several-time volunteer and UVic political science student Kai Richins.

“You don’t need to come back to notice the difference (you’ve made),” he said. Richins pointed to a small knoll that was completely covered and subsequently cleared of blackberries with one day’s work. “You go on lunch, and you see that the entire hillside has been cleaned already.”

About half of the volunteers on the day were first-timers to invasive species removal, Evans said.

“We attract a wide range of ages and abilities. Also, we’re very low barrier so it’s a very easy program to volunteer with,” she said. The Green Team is as focused on improving social inclusion and mental health as it is tackling invasive species, Evans added. “We’re taking care of our mental health and we’re taking care of each other when we take care of nature.”

Later in September, Green Team Greater Victoria will announce tree planting initiatives across ecologies where they’ve picked invasive species, including Sidney and UVic.

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