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iPhone App Highlights Invasive Plants in Southern Forests

Screen shot from Forest Service iPhone app (U.S. Forest Service)

Screen shot from Forest Service iPhone app (U.S. Forest Service)

Research funded by the U.S. Forest Service has generated new software to alert foresters and citizens in the southern U.S. to invasive plant species. The app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch are available free from Apple’s iTunes Store. The Forest Service is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The software was based on research conducted at University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health and funded by the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station. The app based on this research provides photos and information to identify the 56 nonnative plants and plant groups currently invading the forests of the 13 Southern states.

“Invasive plants are one of the greatest threats to our forests and grasslands,” says Leslie Weldon, deputy chief for National Forest System. Congongrass, nonnative privets, autumn olive and tallowtree are among the most common invasive plants in the South. These species, says the Forest Service, have been known to deplete water supplies, poison wildlife, and livestock, and damage property in urban and rural areas at a cost of about $138 billion annually.

The app is patterned after the Southern Research Station’s invasive plant field and management guides. Like the guides, the app divides invasive plants into trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns, and forbs and provides identification keys, photos, and management recommendations.

The app is expected to inform more people about the impact of invasive plants and get them involved in eradication efforts. “Those are important first steps in stopping and containing the invasions of harmful nonnative plants,” says Southern Research Station Research Ecologist James Miller.

Future versions of the app are expected to include the ability to submit photos and report new sightings of invasive plants on the spot throughout the United States to University of Georgia’s Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System. Versions of the app for other operating systems are also being explored.

Read more: Software Helps Farmers Determine Pesticide Spray Dates

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