EDDMapS Reporting System Makes a Good Weapon in the Fight Against Invasive Pests

Utah state agriculture officials are using a smartphone app connected to a University of Georgia mapping system to stop the spread of invasive species.

The system, called Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS), is an online mapping system that documents the location of invasive species as they are reported. If the species is on a list of “species of concern,” experts in state and federal agencies verify the data before it is published on the system.

Created by scientists at the University of Georgia Center of Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, EDDMapS offers a way to catch budding populations of invasive species before they spread into an uncontrollable situation. They came up with the idea after encountering garlic mustard at Kennesaw Mountain and organizing a clean-up—only to discover that the weed had already invaded 17 acres of the park. Ironically, two UGA students had seen the weed several years earlier but had no way to report it. They wanted to change that.

With EDDMapS, a person can use a smartphone to take a picture of an invasive plant and connect to the EDDMapS app to report the location and name of the plant. Once verified, the location is added the county and state maps and lists of invasive plants. Users in 40 states and 3 Canadian provinces have added invasive species locations to the EDDMapS database.

Verification of an entry varies depending on the species and the state where it was found. If the species is on the federal list of “pests of regulatory concern,” experts in federal agencies such as U.S. Forest Service or USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ), and the appropriate State Department of Agriculture or Forestry Service visit the site to assess the identity of the pest and the level of invasion. Entries not on any list go into the database unverified, displaying the message, “Not Verified.”

At the same time that the plant appears in the database, alerts go out to experts in state and federal agencies, park staff, Extension personnel, members of Exotic Pest Plant Councils and anyone else that may need to know about the presence of the invasive pests. The Utah weed program, for instance, is coordinated by the Weed Supervisors Association but is collecting and aggregating data from 12 other states. Because much of the undeveloped land in the West is used for grazing, managing the spread of invasive weeds, some of which can poison livestock, is a high priority.

Rather than duplicating state efforts, EDDMapS takes data from existing systems and puts them in one place. The information it provides enables people to train others to be on the lookout for an invasive that is in a nearby area or that has just entered the area. In the Florida Everglades, for example, EDDMapS combined data housed in 20 agencies into one database, giving staff at each agency access for the first time to data maintained by the other agencies, reducing duplication of effort and the chance that invasive populations would be missed. In fact, an early report of highly invasive African Sacred Ibis (Threskiomis aethiopicus) in Florida led to a quick removal—within 3 hours of the report in EDDMapS. EDDMapS was also used to report the first cogongrass found in North Carolina, as well as the first Russian mallow (Althaea armeniaca) discovered in North America. To date, there have been 2, 531unique species reported to the system.

Users can also use EDDMapS to report a treatment or removal of a species and document follow-up efforts. Currently the Eastern Spotted Wing Drosophila Network is using the system heavily to report spotted wing drosophila, a serious pest of small fruit.

To report invasive pest sightings, go to http://www.eddmaps.org/report/ and register as a user. You must enter a photo of the pest, along with its coordinates. Remember to enter all of your contact information, so that if someone needs to verify some of the information, they can reach you.

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