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Early Detection and Rapid Assessment of Invasive Plant Species and Noxious Weeds


<OL> <LI> To gather historic and current occurrence data on invasive species and federal noxious weeds in New England. These data will include information on distribution, status, abundance, phenology and other biological information on the invasive plants and noxious weeds. The data will come from a variety of verifiable sources and all data will be geo-referenced for later research needs. <LI> To establish an interactive website that will include a searchable database, maps, images and other pertinent information and to disseminate these data to a wide variety of users.<LI> To establish an early warning/rapid response program in NE that can respond to new incursions within the region. This early warning network could serve as a national prototype. <LI> To use Geographical Information System (GIS) coverage to model the spread and to try to predict new incursion. <LI> To conduct research on invasive species and noxious weeds. <LI> To create a corps of at least 450 project-trained volunteers who will both look for new invasive plants and noxious weeds in New England and report on the status and distribution of know invasives and noxious weeds.<LI> To support a regional oversight program called NIPGro that shares information between programs, agencies and people using existing regional infrastructures to facilitate this transfer. This program will offer some technical assistance, slides, printed and electronic information and sponsor symposia and other meetings.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Invasive species and noxious weeds are serious threats to New England agricultural lands and natural landscapes. The problems created by these plants concern land managers, conservationists, government agencies and the public. Too often new incursions of species go unnoticed until they are well established and spreading. This project is to establish a regional early detection and rapid assessment network for New England. Key components of this regional network will be an inter-active website and database, a corps of project-trained field volunteers who can recognize invasive species, rapid assessment teams and a regional invasive plant program that includes education, outreach and technical assistance. Both historic information from herbarium records and current field information submitted by project participants will be included within the searchable database that will run the website. Automated maps, showing species spread over time and space, will be included. These data will be used in scientific investigations employing GIS capabilities to predict spread and habitat preferences for listed species. Early warning notices will alert site visitors to new incursions. A corps of 450 volunteers will be trained in order to facilitate early detection, when control can be most effective. The regional program, NIPGro, will serve as both a clearinghouse for information and as a nexus for invasive species activities in New England. Existing infrastructure will be used to build this network into an important and dynamic conservation and educational tool.

APPROACH: The three emphases of this project will be conducted simultaneously. A list of invasive species will be compiled using criteria developed for this purpose. Federal noxious weeds known to occur in New England or that could potentially occur here based on distribution in other eastern states will be added to this list. Data on these species will be gathered from herbarium specimens by visiting over 2 dozen herbaria in the northeast, verifying identifications and capturing label information. These data will be stored in a database created for this purpose. Concurrently a training program will be established in conjunction with the New England Wild Flower Society, a coordinator supported, and training materials assembled in order to facilitate the intensive training of 450 volunteers (25 per state for each of 3 years). These trained volunteers will gather current field information (not just presence or absence but also current status, biological information and geo-referenced locality data) on project generated field forms designed to facilitate information transfer. Training workshops will be held to provide participants with first-hand knowledge of listed taxa. These 2 data sets (current and historic) will be merged into a searchable data base that will be available on-line at the project web site being developed for this purpose, the Invasive Plant Atlas for New England (IPANE). Data will be available in tabular and comma-delimited formats in order to support other uses. This web site will also include information on each project-listed species (biology, phenology, history of introduction etc), images, automated maps showing distribution over time and space, bibliographic references and links to pertinent sites. Metadata will be developed for all aspects of the web site. A key feature of the web site will be early warning notices that will be posted to alert people to new or significant regional invasions. All geo-referenced data will also be used in conjunction with Geographic Information System coverage for New England in order to model the spread and distribution of taxa as well as to attempt to predict vulnerable habitat types or sites for possible impending invasions. The results of these investigations will be published in peer reviewed journals. The third component is the support for a regional consortium of over 45 organizations and agencies, the New England Invasive Plant Group, that is already in existence and coordinated by the Silvio Conte Refuge of the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This consortium will be supported in order to take advantage of the existing infrastructure of invasive species knowledge, concern, and control efforts. This program will not only facilitate identification, education, outreach, control and alternatives but will maintain a variety of educational materials, organize conferences and symposia, produce a newsletter and offer technical assistance to a wide range of stakeholders. Members will assist in project-run rapid assessment of new incursions. This approach offers both assistance on a current problem and a proactive approach to deterring new invasions.

Silander, John
University of Connecticut
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