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Conservation & the Environment

The new app to help combat invasive weeds

A new app to help combat the spread of three problem plants was launched in June.

Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Floating Pennywort are three particularly problematic Invasive, Non-Native Species (INNS) that are spreading quickly across the Midlands region. Using a smartphone app called PlantTracker we would like anyone who is out and about to record where these plants are so that we can more accurately assess the situation.

An INNS is any non-native animal or plant that has the ability to spread causing damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live. INNS pose threats to biodiversity, increase flood risk, and affect the state of our water environment. INNS cost the British economy a minimum of £1.7 billion per annum.

Japanese Knotweed can grow through asphalt, contributes to river bank erosion, increasing the risk of flooding and is very difficult to get rid of. Himalayan Balsam can grow to over 2 metres high, and also damages river banks. Floating Pennywort grows on water at a rate of up to 20cm per day, and can completely smother waterbodies.

The Environment Agency, the University of Bristol, and NERC Centre for Ecology &Hydrology (CEH) have teamed up to combat the spread of these 3 INNS.

The PlantTracker app shows how to identify each

species and enables users to easily submit geo-located photos whenever they find one.

Claire Quigley from the Environment Agency said: “Invasive non-native plant species are a threat to native wildlife in the Midlands. We’d love everyone to help us to track them down. We will be able to use the information to determine the extent of the problem, find out where the worst cases are and provide evidence for Local Action Groups to develop project funding bids to tackle INNS in their communities.”

The app has been developed as part of the NatureLocator project, led by the University of Bristol, to enable members of the public to take part in biological survey work via their mobile phones. This is a pilot project and the app is being trialled in the Midlands region to begin with. However, it is hoped that in subsequent years the project will be expanded to cover the whole of the UK. Records can be submitted from outside the Midlands but they may not be analysed straight away.

The app is available free from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store by searching for planttracker (one word), or from the website

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