Invasive weeds are getting easier to track according to a report from the Weed Sciences Society of America. The group says online databases and a new smartphone application really help make a difference.
"These new resources are moving pockets of information out of universities and laboratories and into the public domain where they are readily accessible," says Lee Van Wychen, Ph.D., WSSA science policy director. "Now scientists, policy makers and even the general public can use the data to track the location and movement of weeds and monitor the effectiveness of management strategies."
Online weed databases are currently maintained by a variety of public agencies, organizations and educational institutions. Examples include:
- Global Invasive Species Information Network, administered by the National Institute for Invasive Species Science of the U.S. Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center.
- iMapInvasives, managed by The Nature Conservancy.
- Invasive Plant Atlas of the MidSouth, managed by the Mississippi State University Geosystems Research Institute.
- National Institute for Invasive Species Science Database, hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center.
- Plants of the United States, managed by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Smart phones at work too
WSSA also points out the growth of new technologies that make it easier to capture information and report invasive weeds by location so online databases are more complete. One example is an iPhone and Android application developed by the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia in support of EDDMapS - an online Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System for invasive species.
Previously weed sightings were submitted to EDDMapS using detailed online forms, but the new applications allow home gardeners, backpackers and other lay people that are more likely to encounter invasive weeds to participate in their tracking and discovery too.
The cost of control for invasive weeds mounts every day, and while new technologies help track the problems, they also help show the effectiveness of control efforts. Information from EDDMapS is available to researchers at no cost and can be used in a variety of ways. It's even possible for researcher to track infestations of weeds over time with the data sets available.