By spreading quickly, outcompeting native species for resources, invasive species are becoming a serious threat to biodiversity. As part of the University of Waterloo’s Sustainable Land Care Standard, Waterloo is working towards managing invasive species and increasing native and ecologically appropriate plants across campus. 

This year, naturalization projects began in May where Plant Operations manually removed many mature common buckthorn shrubs along Laurel Creek, as well as from the newly designated healing forest. Common buckthorn produces leaves early in the spring and slowly loses their leaves in the fall, shading out other plants.

Additionally, the berries are poisonous and do not provide nutritional value to wildlife. Student, staff and faculty volunteers helped plant a variety of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants where the buckthorn once grew, and also helped remove small buckthorn seedlings.  

Volunteers holding shovels about to plant trees at north campus

Volunteers planting trees at north campus. 

Over the summer, as part of the Sustainability Living Lab, students from Professional Conservation and Restoration Practice (ERS 341) began a trial to test different methods of buckthorn removal — cutting, pulling or using bioherbicides. Future students will monitor the results of the different techniques. The students also designed naturalization plans for different green spaces across campus. One of the project sites was on the hill adjacent to the parking lot between South Campus Hall and Douglas Wright Engineering. Following the naturalization plans from ERS 341, students from Field Ecology (ENVS 200) and other volunteers removed the invasive garlic mustard that covered the hill over the course of the summer.  

In the fall, Foundations: Environment, Resources and Sustainability (ERS 100) students used the naturalization plan to plant a pollinator garden on the hill. Students, staff and faculty members from across campus also helped with the weeding, planting and maintenance of the pollinator garden throughout the fall. This project concluded with a final weeding and seed ball planting event in early November. This new pollinator garden will provide a variety of food for birds, insects and other pollinators.   

Volunteers holding plants for the pollinator garden

Volunteers holding plants for the pollinator garden. 

Many other planting events happened in the fall where trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants were planted along the storm water management ponds on north campus, along Laurel Creek. As well as in the urban forest adjacent to the Village 1 residences, with the help of ENVS 200 students and campus community members. Adding trees and other plants helps reduce erosion and provides habitat, shade and food for wildlife.  

Volunteers planting trees in the urban forest

Volunteers planting trees in the urban forest. 

This year, a total of 325 students from three Environment courses were involved with the naturalization projects, as well as 177 volunteers from all six faculties and many offices across campus. More than 1200 trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants were planted and thousands of invasive plants were removed. By leveraging academic and community capacity, Waterloo is managing invasive species and increasing biodiversity in an innovative and effective way. Waterloo continues to accelerate action towards sustainable futures, by cultivating a prosperous future for humanity and the planet to thrive. 

Funding for these projects was provided through Waterloo’s Sustainability Action Fund, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Region of Waterloo Community Environmental Fund, and the Invasive Species Action Fund