Spotted an alien species? Shoot and upload

Pistia stratiotes.  

Growing in empty plots, on medians of highways, besides playgrounds, weeds and other invasive species have become obstinate features of the natural landscape.

In a first-such-attempt at plotting the ubiquity of these uninvited guests, researchers at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) and the Indian Biodiversity Portal have launched the crowd-sourcing “Spotting Alien Invasive Species” (SPAIS) campaign.

Through August, they hope to accumulate pictures, location and other details of these unwanted species on their website ( _alien_invasive_species /show). Twenty plants and animals – based on their invasiveness and easily-recognisable physical traits – have been uploaded.

To know how pervasive some of these species are one only needs to look at their integration into local parlance. Originally from tropical America, Parthenium hysterophorus has spread across the sub-continent and is popularly referred to as the ‘congress grass’ (depending on which side of the political spectrum one is the name refers to the “spread” of the Indian National Congress during the 1970s or because of its import by the Congress-led government along with wheat during the Green Revolution).

Similarly, the water hyacinth ( Eichhornia crassipes ), which was once kept as an ornamental plant, has now become the symbol of an over-polluted lake.

“These species can lead to losses in biodiversity and huge financial losses for agriculture and forestry,” said ecologist Ankila Hiremath from ATREE, who is one of the organisers of the campaign.

She said a crowd-sourced campaign can yield important information of the spatial distribution of these species. “Once these species spread out of hand, it is logistically and financially nearly impossible to get rid of them. However, if their distribution is known, we can infer what kind of environment is preferred by these species and can suggest which eco-system is vulnerable. This can lead to rapid response to curb the spread,” she explained.

Moreover, with climate change leading to the transformation of numerous areas, such a campaign will eventually help in identifying areas where these invasive species may spread, said Mr. Ankila.

The organisers hope to create enough awareness to sustain the portal till thousands of observations are recorded for an accurate plotting.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 11:37:24 PM |

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