Invasive Species—it’s an evocative classification with a clear connotation: something that doesn’t belong has moved in and started to take over. In the past few decades the term has increasingly become part of our collective cultural consciousness, with each new report about the billions that have been spent combating zebra mussel infestations, the millions of trees in Michigan that have fallen victim to the Emerald Ash Borer beetle, and other devastating accounts of damages caused by invasive species. Here in our own back yard, in Portland’s Forest Park, garlic mustard is crowding out native species essential to the park’s ecosystem.
According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, an invasive species is “one that is not native to an ecosystem and which causes, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” In 2001 the Oregon Legislature decided the issue of invasive species was serious enough to warrant the creation of the Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC), a stage agency charged with the Herculean task of keeping invasive species out of Oregon and to manage those already here. Recently, OISC added a powerful new resource tool that provides land managers, regional planners and others working to prevent, control, or manage invasive species a platform to map occurrences and share information vital to meeting those tasks.
Managed by the Oregon Biodiversity Information Center (ORBIC) at Portland State University, Oregon iMapInvasives is an online, GIS-based invasive species reporting and querying tool. According to Lindsey Wise, Oregon iMapInvasives Data Administrator, iMapInvasives is an open source spatial dataset with hundreds of thousands of records of individual instances and infestations of invasive plants, animals and insects, treatment methods and treatment results compiled from sources like the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the US Geological Survey Nonindigenous Aquatic Species, and Oregonians concerned about the spread of invasive species. With its data input and customizable query tools, iMapInvasives makes it easy for those working to control the spread of invasive species to share what they know.
“This is a great tool for local and state agencies like Soil and Water Conservations districts,” Wise said. “With iMapInvasives, agencies working to control invasive species can submit data on areas of infestations such as patches of weeds or infested ponds. They can track where species are spreading and the kind of treatment they used to manage the spread so that when they return to a location the following year, they can measure the effectiveness of their efforts.”
Because agencies and individuals might use the tools that iMapInvasives provides to varying degrees, ORBIC offers users a series of iMapInvasives reference pages, presentations, video sessions, and functionality guides. These resources provide different levels of iMapInvasives users with information on how to use the map, how to create records and queries, and how to use iMapInvasives as a collaboration tool to share data across jurisdictional boundaries. While ORBIC provides iMapInvasives users the ability to record data at varying levels of detail, Lindsey Wise noted that using iMapInvasives is quick and easy.
“The data entry is a simple step-by-step process,” Wise said. “The system asks one question at a time: where did you make the observation, when did you see the invasive species, and what species was it. If you want you can add additional data as well, such as photographs and general comments. If you’re an agency working on a project, you can enter specific information about your group, when you conducted the survey, where the observation was made and whether it was on public or private land. The amount of data you can enter is really quite extensive if you want to go that far.”
In order to help assure the vast scope of information contained at iMapInvasives can have the greatest possible impact on Oregon’s ecosystems and to guarantee it remains available to Oregonians working to stop the spread of invasive species, the office of Innovation & Intellectual Property at Portland State University has worked with ORBIC to develop a digital data access agreement that allows ORBIC to maintain partnerships that provide access to the powerful iMapInvasives tool.
As Lindsey Wise noted, the best way to combat invasive species is to educate yourself and be aware of how these species spread and what you can do to stop the spread: brushing off your shoes before and after going for a walk or hike, checking the hulls of boats before putting into water. It is true that humans are often responsible for the introduction of invasive species into native ecosystems, but it is also true that humans have made huge investments in removing invasive species from our lakes, rivers, coasts and lands. iMapInvasives is one of these investments. Using this tool Federal and State agencies, the private sector and concerned citizens can share and combine their efforts; they can develop a network dedicated to eradicating invasive species from Oregon, saving not only ecosystems, but millions of dollars a year.