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Using information technology, communication and citizen science in alien invasive plant management in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Le Bourgeois T., Thompson D.I., Guezou A., Foxcroft L.C., Grard P., Taylor R.W., Marshall T., Carrara A.. 2016. In : Rakotoarisoa Noëline R. (ed.), Blackmore Stephen (ed.), Riera Bernard (ed.). Botanists of the twenty-first century: roles, challenges and opportunities. Paris : UNESCO, p. 103-111. UNESCO International Conference: Botanists of the twenty-first century, 2014-09-22/2014-09-25, Paris (France).

Invasive plant species are a major threat to the biodiversity of protected areas and South Africa's Kruger National Park (KNP), which covers about 20 000 km2, is no exception. The extensive river network draining highly invaded and transformed external catchments make KNP highly susceptible to alien plant invasion. Efficient control thereof requires early detection of alien species, increased awareness, effective eradication and dissemination of information amongst all relevant stakeholders. Pl@ntInvasive-Kruger was initiated to provide a platform and a range of tools in support of these actions locally by aiming to develop a suite of science-based, computer-driven tools for use by KNP managers, researchers and field teams involved in alien plant control. Four applications were developed, each supported by the global, multi-user PL@NTMANAGER database: 1) PUBLISH returns synthesised species information; 2) IDAO executes computer-aided plant identification; 3) IDENTIFY provides image recognition; and 4) CYBERTRAKER acts as an interface for mobile data collection applications. This toolkit facilitates the sharing of information between stakeholders, including scientists, field officers and citizens, and disseminates synthesised information to managers of invasive plants, eradication teams and conservationists. All tools are usable, or can be downloaded, from an internet based platform where members can also share information and documents and engage in discussions on alien invasive plants. Correct identification is an essential aspect of alien plant control programs, but is difficult and time consuming where large numbers of alien and indigenous plant species co-occur. The Pl@ntInvasive-Kruger database currently contains information on ~237 alien plant species, with the identification tools focussing on the 113 most important species. By facilitating the identification of invasive plants and supporting knowledge-sharing and the use of shared tools for a common goal, Pl@ntInvasive-Kruger promotes invasive alien plant control and thereby biodiversity conservation in KNP.

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