Maine is preferring to crowdsource to chronicle the invasive plans which plague some of its natural areas.
The state is collecting data through its iMaplnvasive website launched 12 months ago. The online tool allows residents to upload photos of the invasive plants they encounter on public or private land.
More than 2800 observations have been uploaded by around 224 users about 40 non-native plant species through the tool, said state invasive plant biologist Nancy Olmstead. The state is harnessing the data for improving the way it manages public lands and to inform private landowners on how they can stamp out invasive species, she said.
“The problem with these plants is that they overrun native habitats and crowd native species,” Olmstead said. “A better understanding of these plants will be helpful as we get a better idea of their distribution.”
Invasive plants in the state include buckthorn, Japanese barberry, Morrow’s honeysuckle and among dozens of others scattered all over the state.
The plants, after interfere with native animals and plants, can disrupt food chains and ecosystems, and also potentially can harm humans. Others provided good habitat for mice that harbor the ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne disease, Olmstead said.
In the longer term, the plants can impact the biological diversity of the state’s forests, where some of them grow to such an intensity that they affect the regeneration of the trees negatively, Olmstead said. That can change the complexion of the important areas of the state which is also the spot for tourist attraction each year.
Many of the plants arrived in Maine as ornamental plants through horticultural trade, said Ann Gibbs, the state horticultural. Others came in by accident, such as purple loosestrife, which arrived on the ballast of a ship, she said.
“Often these plants are more prevalent in the southern two thirds of the state,” Gibbs said. “The invasive plant issue is often tied to development, and where we’ve got more people living.”
Invasive plants are a major problem in Acadia National Park, one of the most visited natural areas in the state. 1000+ species of plants have been recorded on Mount Desert Island, where the park is located, and around 25% of them are not native, said Judy Hazen Connery, the park’s vegetation program director. Around 30 of those are considered threatening to the park’s ecosystem, she said.
Mapping invasive plants can give environmental managers tools to be better stewards of natural areas, Hazen Connery said.
“It’s really important because trying to determine what is feasible and what’s prudent really involves determining what is it, how long has it been there, what’s its density,” she said. “It also helps educate the public about it — it helps get the word out about exotic, invasive plants.”