System tracks spread of foreign species

One of the challenges in the battle against invasive plants is knowing where the enemy is.

One of the challenges in the battle against invasive plants is knowing where the enemy is.

Chuck Bargeron and his colleagues at the University of Georgia are helping to address this issue. They’ve developed an early detection and distribution mapping system (EDDMapS) that provides insights into the spread of unwanted non-native plants.

Bargeron, who is a technical director with the university, described EDDMapS during a gathering of the Alberta Invasive Plants Council in Red Deer on Wednesday. He said the system has gone from a regional tool just six years ago to one that’s in use across the United States — including in Alaska.

“The goal of it is to make it very easy for anybody to report and see the distribution of invasive plants,” said Bargeron.

Previously, he said, it was difficult to determine the range of invasive plants, or for people who discovered new infestations to report them. With EDDMapS, anyone from government officials to recreational hikers can easily report sightings online.

The improved database makes it easier to map the spread of invasive plants and target control efforts, allows for quicker identification of problems, and gives credibility to requests for resources to respond. There are also benefits to involving the general public, said Bargeron.

“It’s a good educational tool.”

Don Battiste, program director with the Alberta Invasive Plants Council, agreed that it’s important to include as many people as possible in the mapping exercise.

“We really want to empower recreationalists and the common citizens and others. They’re the ones who go to places where no one else goes.”

Bargeron said he’d like to see EDDMapS expand into Canada, including Alberta.

“That would be the ultimate goal.

“The plants don’t know the jurisdictional boundaries.”

Virginia Battiste, the council’s administrative co-ordinator, thinks EDDMapS could become an important tool in responding quickly and decisively to new invasive plants.

“It’s obvious that you aren’t going to keep everything out, so the next best thing is prevention by catching it when it first comes in.”