I sent out a request on various listservs for examples of volunteers doing early detection of invasive plants. The response was
Photo property of SiSSI, Italy’s early detection program.
phenomenal. There are lots of people doing early detection work around the world! Examples are listed below.
Why is early detection so important? Once established, invasive plants can be virtually impossible to eliminate but their ecological and economic repercussions are profound – at least $50 billion a year in the United States. It is vitally important that people who are outside in their communities, parks, preserves, and natural areas become involved in the process of identification and responding to plant invasions. These programs are known as Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR).
The starting place for anyone in Canada and the United States to learn about EDRR is EDDMapS – the Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System. This mapping system allows registered users to report the location of suspected invasive plants. You don’t have to be an export to make a report. In registering you will be asked to state your level of expertise and “Beginner” is one level.
These programs can work, but they begin at the local level. Take the state of Wisconsin. As noted below by Kelly Kearns, an Invasive Plant Coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, “Japanese hedge parsley, European marsh thistle and black swallowwort have spread a fair amount in a few counties, but early detection and quick removal has kept them from establishing in many sites, in particular managed natural areas. Giant hogweed is extremely distinctive, so we are fairly confident that we know of and are en route to eradicating almost all populations in the state.”
Consider Texas’s Invaders of Texas Program: Over 2,000 trained citizen scientists have volunteered, and the network has cumulatively mapped and reported over 16,700 invasive plant observations since 2005!
Here are highlights from programs around the world. This list is not comprehensive, and I hope to do an update.
Weed Spotters’ Network – Queensland: This program aims to find, identify and document those new occurrences of potential weeds at an early stage so that preventative actions can be taken. Their website offers a very comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to collect plants and send botanical specimens. Contact: Melinda Laidlaw; Email: Melinda.Laidlaw@science.dsitia.qld.gov.au.
The Weed Spotters’ Bulletin of April, 2014,
Weed Spotters’ Program – Victoria: You can register to become a Weed Spotter and training is provided. Weed Spotters report suspected invaders by email or telephone.
Research Institute for Nature and Forest – The Institute maintains a very easy to use identification and mapping system. One webpage has photos of key invasive species with links to detailed identification information and to maps showing where the species have been detected. Contact: Tim Adriaens; email@example.com.
Korina: This is a mapping system in Sachsen-Anhalts that permits reports from registered users. As reported by Katrin Schneider with the agency that protects nature sanctuaries in Sachsen-Anhalts,”In the centre of our early warning system is an online information system, where species information can be accessed and sightings can be uploaded. We receive an alert and start an assessment of the sighting and if it is confirmed organise a fast reaction. Some parts of this system are already working. Others are soon ready to be launched. The next steps will be to increase our network, find more people who look out for the invasive plants and to improve their identification skills.” Contact: Katrin Schneider; firstname.lastname@example.org.
SiSSI: This program focuses on three species, chosen among the most invasive and easily recognizable plants in Italy: Senecio inaequidens, Ailanthus altissima and Ambrosia artemisiifolia. Each report is validated by a group of experts before entering the distribution map. This permits data to be sent by a wide range of volunteers. The SISSI website gives a lot of information and images to avoid false positives (including a list of similar species and their differences with the target species). SISSI is part of DRYADES – Key to Nature EU project (access to interactive identification tool devoted to plants, fungi and animals) and SIIT (the initiative dedicated to projects for school). Contact:Leonardo Pizzo; email@example.com.
GB non-native species secretariat. The Secretariat coordinates Species Alerts for Great Britain. A person with a sighting can report: what you saw; where you were; and who you are. This information is transmitted to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The mapping system allows a sighting to be pinpointed to an exact location in Great Britain. An email can also be sent. Great Britain has an extension network of Local Action Groups.
New Forest Non-Native Plants Project – This is a very active Local Action Groups working in the New Forest, an area in southeast England containing forest, heathland, and unenclosed pasture land. The Project depends partnership with landowners, volunteers, contractors, universities, the media and the general public. The Project has responded to a number of reports of new invasive species. Two examples: A volunteer discovered bog arum Calla palustris in the New Forest on a tributary of the Beaulieu River. A local naturalist discovered creeping water primrose Ludwigia grandiflora growing at Breamore Marsh Site of Special Scientific Interest in 2009. Both of these infestations were successfully eliminated. Contact: Catherine Chatters; email: Catherine.Chatters@hiwwt.org.uk.
Mid Klamath Watershed Council, Klamath Wilderness Inventory Project – This is an interesting program that deals with identifying and inventorying invasive plants in remote wilderness areas. Since 2010 they have covered hundreds of trail miles and mapped over 100 weeds sites.
Salmon River Restoration Council, Community Noxious Weed Program – The Council focuses on the Salmon River watershed (1,945 square k; 751 square m). Their Noxious Weed Program focuses on inventory, mapping and removal of a number of different invasive plants from spotted knapweed to tree of heaven. Interestingly, the Program promotes manual removal, mulching, and other non-chemical methods.
Alligator Point. This is a cooperative effort between residents of Alligator Point and the Nature Conservancy to deal with invasive natal grass. Although natal grass has invaded many parts of central Florida, Floridians are trying to stem its spread into northern Florida. One resident who has been involved in trying to stop its spread on Alligator Point (and from Alligator Point to inland areas) is Michelle Gomez. She has participated in efforts to raise awareness by going door-to-door passing out informational pamphlets. The biggest thing that surprised Michelle was the willingness of private landowners to “let strangers onto their land twice a month” for testing being coordinated by the Nature Conservancy. According to Michelle, people on Alligator Point have come to understand that natal grass not only threatens ecosystems but also the very existence of Alligator Point because it damages the dunes that protect the point. Contact: Brian Pelc; bpelc@TNC.ORG.
Great Lakes Early Detection Network – This network includes several organizations near the Great Lakes. In a way, this network is more ecosystem based than state or federal programs which may have human-made boundaries.
Illinois and Indiana:
New Invaders Watch Program. This program lists recent reports and alerts. It allows volunteers to register. The mapping system is powered by EDD-MapS. The training materials quite impressive and is broken down into such categories as Forest Pests Training, Insect Only Training, Prairie and Savanna Grass Training.
West Michigan Cluster – Their program for EDRR began in 2009. In areas where invasive species have been reported, volunteers have gone door-to-door and hung door hangers with information about the species found in the area. Contacts: Ginny Wanty and Mike Bruggink; firstname.lastname@example.org
R2Ed. This a highly organized metropolitan program sponsored by the Three Rivers Park District – a system with 27,000 acres (10,927 ha) of parks and trails that serve over 9.5 million visitors annually). To supplement regular staff, twenty volunteers to do both early detection and rapid response. The volunteers agree to devote at least 4-6 hours a month.
Ramsey County Early Detection Monitoring Program. This program is county-wide but is being organized city-by-city in Ramsey County located in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. In this program, volunteers are trained in identifying 10 key early detection species. Volunteers walk high-risk areas – roadsides, trails, and borders. They go out 5-6 times a year. If a volunteer finds an invasive of concern, it is entered into EDDMapS and the landowner is contacted about control. One interesting success story involved wild parsnip – an invasive species that can cause nasty burns – phytophotodermatitis. The wild parsnip was found in a wetland, just over the fence from a baseball field on school property. (Kids would climb over the fence to retrieve balls.) The school district posted the area and has undertaken control efforts. Contact Carole Gernes; email@example.com
Invaders of Texas. This is a long established program to detect and report invasive species. In January of 2014 the 2,000th trained citizen scientist joined the team. The network has cumulatively mapped and reported over 16,700 invasive plant observations since 2005. Whoa! Their five year report provides details. Contact: Justin Bush, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Capital Region:
Exotic Plant Management Team – Volunteers help this team by creating documents for distribution, Invasive Plant Alerts. An example is this one for Italian arum. Contact: Mark Frey; email: email@example.com
Citizen Science EDRR program – The Pacific Northwest Invasive Plant Council is working with the state and federal entities on training programs for volunteers. The program is focusing in 2014 on Olympic and Gifford Pinchot National Forests. Their website has a great list of documents (e.g., PowerPoint volunteer training presentation) that would help others in setting up programs. Contact: Julie Combs; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aquatic Invasive Species Monitoring Protocol – This is a new program. It has an easy-to-follow protocol for people to monitor for aquatic invasives from the shoreline, including at public boat launches, parks, or other water access. This document will contain the aquatic invasives monitoring protocol, a list of recommended equipment for the monitoring kit, and some key aquatic invasives of regional interest. Contact: Patrick Miller; email: email@example.com.
Weed Watchers – This program started in 2004. After developing their first list of species targeted for early detection, plant species have been added each year. As mentioned above, their program has identified and slowed and possibly even stopped the advancement of certain invasive plants. Wisconsin has adopted an early detection rule regulating plant species that are threats but are either not in or only in a few locations in the state. As Kelly Kearns has noted, “Once the rule got into place and we did a great deal of outreach, we started getting many more reports. Many are mis-identifications, but we encourage people to report even if they aren’t sure, and to send photos or vouchers. The developing of regulations has done more to get the word out than our citizen science program alone could do, as it allows us to get more media coverage. We have thousands of people who have been trained in the ID and reporting of these plants. Hundreds have submitted reports (usually by email or phone call). We have difficulty getting people to use either paper or on-line reporting forms. We are hoping that the Great Lakes Early Detection Network, developed by University of Wisconsin and MIPN (Mark Renz, Brendon Panke, Tony Summers) and some of the smart phone apps will help get more data entered.” Kearns notes that “We are still struggling with finding a database that is easy for people to both enter data into and get data out. We currently lack funding to do control of early detection terrestrial plants. We do have a grant program that can be used for aquatic and wetland ED invasives, which is good as it tends to be more expensive getting aquatic populations contained then small terrestrial plant populations.”
Wisconsin First Detector Network. This is a new program training volunteers on ID and online reporting of invasive plants, insects, and plant diseases. Interestingly, they will use online training with Blackboard Collaborate. Hands on trainings are planned for summer. Contact: Tony Summers; firstname.lastname@example.org.