UK Scientists Develop App for Tracking Invasive Plant Species

PlantTracker/Screen capture

There are apps for helping track and protect endangered species and apps that let you submit photos of plants to help scientists discover new species and track the range of known ones, but those apps are all about preserving and protecting species. What about the plants we don't want to foster and protect? Well, there's an app for that too.

The UK's Environment Agency has teamed up with the Nature Locator project at Bristol University and the National Environmental Research Council's Center for Hydrology and Ecology to develop the PlantTracker app that tells people how to spot invasive plants and lets them snap geo-tagged pictures of the species and submit them to the organizations to better help them manage the populations. Three specific plants are of particular concern: the Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Floating Pennywort.

Invasive species are considered to be the second biggest threat to biodiversity after habitat destruction, and in the UK, these plants are also increasing flood risks and affecting waterways, which has cost the country about $2.6 billion a year. Luckily, tools are being developed to help stop the spreading of these species, and what better tool than an army of smart-phone-wielding citizens capable of reporting invasive plant sightings in an instant?

Dave Kilbey, Nature Locator Project Manager, said, “Engaging members of the public with scientific research is an exciting and expanding area with benefits both to science and the individuals involved. Smartphone apps are ideally suited to projects of this kind and the Nature Locator team aims to build a portfolio of apps to tackle some of our many environmental problems.”

Right now, the project is encouraging residents in the Midlands to download and use the app, with plans to expand the focus to all of the UK soon. The Nature Locator project has previously developed an app called Leaf Watch that helped track an invasive moth that was attacking horse chestnut trees.

You can download the app through the iTunes store or Google Play Store and track the progress of the project at the PlantTracker website.

Tags: Apps | Biodiversity | Cell Phones | Technology

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