Abstract:

Developing an alien plant identification platform: A case study from the Kruger National Park.

Rob W. Taylor1, Thembi Marshall1, Dave I. Thompson1,2, Llewellyn C. Foxcroft3,4 & Thomas le Bourgeois5

1South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Ndlovu Node, Phalaborwa, RSA
2School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, RSA
3Scientific Services, South African National Parks, Skukuza, RSA
4DST-NRF Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, RSA
5Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), Montpellier, France

Alien invasive plants increasingly threaten to decrease biodiversity and modify ecosystems globally, and South Africa’s protected areas are no exception. Pl@ntInvasive-Kruger represents a partnership between NRF|SAEON, SANParks and CIRAD that aims to capture, in an open-source online multi-user database, the current knowledge of Kruger National Parks’ approximate 400 alien plant species. This details descriptions of both invasive and contained alien plants, and includes morphological traits, degree of invasiveness, habitat, provenance, current distribution, vernacular names, and documented control methods. All descriptions are supported by clear photographs and illustrations of diagnostic features. Further, Pl@ntInvasive-Kruger utilises IDAO computer-aided identification to convey information in the database to users. This simple platform guides users in identifying an alien plant through a series of step-wise choices and simple schematics based on morphological, habit and habitat characteristics. Final identification is expressed as the similarity (ranked percentage probability) of the unknown specimen to the type specimen information housed in the database. Supporting text and images of candidate species can then be accessed by the user to confirm identification. The IDAO application is compatible with a range of mobile electronic devices (Smartphones, PDAs and Tablets), allowing on-site identification and immediate management intervention. The Pl@ntInvasive-Kruger database and the IDAO system are linked to an internet-based collaborative platform (Pl@ntNet) that allows partners to share information, working and scientific documents, images, Web links and to manage discussions. This pilot initiative can be expanded to other parks to share tools, experiences and knowledge on invasive plants and control practices.

Presentation Topic

Developing an alien plant identification platform: A case study from the Kruger National Park.

 

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School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, RSA

 

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