Alien plant species get toehold in Que.

Five new alien invaders have gained a toehold on federal lands in the Ottawa area, according to the first comprehensive survey of non-native plant and animal species in the region.

The newcomers have alluring names, such as Himalayan balsam and Amur honeysuckle, but they're considered dire threats that will drive out local species and reduce biodiversity.

The recent immigrants bring to 45 the total number of invasive alien species now catalogued on properties managed by the National Capital Commission, which includes about 10 per cent of the land in and around Ottawa, including parts of Quebec.

The findings are from a detailed survey commissioned from the Montreal office of consultant Genivar Inc.

The survey report from January this year was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Genivar Inc. for the first time also documented an insect-and-fungi combination, known as Beech bark disease, on the NCC's urban properties.

The survey, conducted by biologist Melanie Lapointe, also had some good news: giant hogweed, whose toxic sap can burn human skin in the presence of sunlight, was found nowhere on the commission's lands despite having been located elsewhere in Ottawa.

And two alien species that had been catalogued in previous years, water chestnut and black swallow-wort, were nowhere to be found.

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