Native plants and animals have evolved to coexist in a balance where the animals use the plants as a food source and the plants use the animals to reproduce. Non-native invasive species disrupt this balance that has taken eons to reach.
Invasive plants crowd out native ones, often by starting their growing season before native plants or growing faster. Most invasive plants are eaten by a very small number of native insects. With fewer insects there is less food for breeding birds to feed their nestlings. The fruit of invasive plants will be eaten by birds and other animals, but it is less nutritious.
Invasive insects can kill native plants. Connecticut has been hit by the gypsy moth, the Japanese beetle, and the hemlock woolly adelgid, and we have seen the damage that has been done. New on the scene is the emerald ash borer which can kill an ash tree in two to three years.
To combat invasive plants, experts need to know where to find them. That’s the main idea behind the What’s Invasive app, a joint effort by UCLA’s Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS), the National Park Service and the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.
The app displays local lists of invasive plants or animals (with images) that have been identified by the National Park Service and other management authorities. Users can help experts pinpoint invasive species by locating them and providing experts with GPS coordinates, accompanied by a photo and notes about the observation. The geotagged observations and photos are used to alert experts about the spread of habitat-destroying species. Users can also go online to whatsinvasive.com and set up their own site for invasive species data collection.
Visit whatsinvasive.com for more information or to set up your own site for invasive species data collection.
Another app for helping scientists map invasive species is from the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England. IPANE’s mission is to create a comprehensive web-accessible database of invasive and potentially invasive plants in New England that will be continually updated by a network of professionals and trained volunteers. The database will facilitate education and research that will lead to a greater understanding of invasive plant ecology and support informed conservation management. An important focus of the project is the early detection of, and rapid response to, new invasions.
This app allows IPANE to become mobile and allow IPANE users to report sightings of invasive plants directly in the field.
For more information about IPANE and how to volunteer, visit eddmaps.org/ipane/.
Both apps are available for iOS and Android smart devices. Links to the App Store and Google Play for the apps can be found at apps.bugwood.org/apps.html.