Applications for INVASIVE PLANTS  About Calflora
Updated October 13, 2015

Weed Data Collection
Calflora has been working with the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) and other organizations engaged in weed management since 2010 to collect and map weed data across California. Cal-IPC is interested in weeds on the Cal-IPC Inventory list. Published observations of plants on this list are forwarded from Calflora to Cal-IPC's CalWeedMapper system.

The Weed Manager System
Calflora released Weed Manager in June, 2015, a system for organizations engaged in land management to track weed infestations and treatments over time. Weed Manager represents an significant evolution of Calflora's ability to collect plant observation data, including organization-specific forms and other sophisticated features.

Early Detection
While the Bay Area Early Detection Network (BAEDN) was active, Calflora worked closely with them to collect observations of plants on the Bay Area Early Detection Weeds list. How the BAEDN folks came up with their list is fascinating, and is described in detail in this article.

Once the BAEDN list was made public, it had the effect of galvanizing the data collection efforts of many individuals and agencies in the Bay Area. As a result, we know much more now about where those weeds are growing and spreading in Bay Area counties.

For instance, there were 20 records of Rytidosperma penicillatum (purple awned wallaby grass) reported in the Bay Area before June 1, 2011. Since that date, an additional 1150 records have been reported in the Bay Area. The additional knowledge about the whereabouts of this plant is a direct result of BAEDN's efforts.

© 2010 Robert Steers/NPS

Choosing Target Weeds
What makes a weed stand out as an early detection target in a certain area? Andrea Williams wrote the following in her 2009 description of a volunteer based protocol for the National Park Service (Early Detection of Invasive Plant Species in the San Francisco Bay Area Network):
    "The list of target species for each park was based on current knowledge and rankings, summing recognized invasiveness and biological ease of control and stratifying into priorities by feasibility of control based on species' infested acreage in the park." (pg. xvii)
This recent National Park Service Resource Brief further explains the protocol: exotic plants on SFAN land are classified into four lists, from high to low priority.
The point of invasive plant early detection is to "... find potentially problematic invasive plants ... while they can still be easily controlled ...". Collecting adequate data is fundamental, and is used
  • To determine the distribution and abundance of target invasive plant species
  • To measure the success of removal activities
  • To understand how different invasive plants threaten local ecosystems
  • To re-prioritize which species and locations to target on future surveys
  • To determine the factors that lead to new infestations
A Tale of Two Groups
In the Calflora model, each data contributor has their own account. When several data contributors need to work closely together, they can start a group. The following two Calflora groups have a statewide focus on weeds, and significant membership.

The Invasive Plant Mapping group (formerly CalWeedMapper Contributors) is one of the first Calflora groups, and dates from late 2011 when Cal-IPC was collecting weed data wholesale from other organizations. Anyone who contributed data to CalIPC's effort was added as a member of this group.

Since then, some members have continued to add individual weed observations, or to periodically upload weed datasets into the Calflora database.

Where should I put my observation record?
If your record is published, it does not strictly matter into which group you put it, because the interested people are likely to find it sooner or later.

Groups are a mechanism for collaborating between contributors, particularly with respect to unpublished records. If you put your record into a group while it is still unpublished, then the people in that group will be able to see it, and people outside the group will not.

    There is also a social aspects of groups: when you add an observation to a group, the other members of the group will likely find out about it, either from an email, by looking at group activity, or by doing a Group Observations search. Seeing your record may encourage other members to add addional records of their own. In this way some groups develop a kind of data collection synergy between members.
Once your record is published, if you want to inform people in another group about it, you can write a comment on the record, and send the comment to the other group. Anyone in the group who has email notification turned on will receive your comment as an email. Your comment will also be visible in group activity (from the group home page).
The Early Detection Network group is the successor to BAEDN's data collection activities. Anyone can join this group.

As BAEDN's effort demonstrated, the key to any kind of early detection data collection is to have an early detection target list defined for a specific area. BAEDN defined a target list for the Bay Area. Eric Wrubel defined a target list for Pinnacles National Park.

Efforts to define target lists for other regions are underway. For instance, the Orange County CNPS chapter is working on this list of emergent invasives -- weeds recently arrived in Orange County, or with very few populations, and believed to pose a significant threat to natural areas. (Note that this focus on emergent or incipient population weeds is different from the more classic approach to identifying early detection targets that BAEDN followed.)

The Early Detection Network is a Weed Manager group, and has a "project" for each area of the state where there is significant data collection activity. So far these three:

    Bay Area
    San Benito County
    Orange County

  • June, 2015: Weed Manager officially released.

  • April, 2015: Four Geoweed datasets imported into Weed Manager for the National Park Service.

  • July, 2014: Second Weed Manager partners meeting in Berkeley.

  • December, 2013: Calflora contributed county level records of non-native plants to EddMAPS.

  • July, 2013: First Weed Manager partners meeting in Berkeley, with a demonstration of the alpha version of the Observer Pro phone app.

  • October, 2012: Calflora contributed 230K non-native plant observations to the Calfornia Department of Fish and Game BIOS Viewer (metadata). The data that appears on BIOS is the result of a long conversation with the folks at BIOS about exactly what fields etc. they wanted to be included. Interestingly, lines and polygons are not included. Each record has a field indicating location quality (relative to the whole dataset) and a field indicating overall record quality (relative to the whole dataset).

  • UC Integrated Pest Management (UC Davis) has excellent coverage of agricultural weeds at the Weed Gallery. There are now links to the UC-IPM weed detail pages from each relevant Calflora Taxon Report page -- for instance, Abutilon theophrasti (the link is in Other Sources, bottom right). All weeds covered by UC-IPM are also available as a plant list.

  • Cynthia Powell at Cal-IPC uploaded 137,481 observation records during a six month period ending October 12, 2011. First, a number of partner organizations contributed their data using the Metadata Catalog application. Then Cynthia used the Observation Upload application on the contributed data, and when necessary, contacted data contributors to resolve ambiguous taxa or other details. The records are mostly of weeds, but include some native plants and a great deal of shape data -- a huge effort with a huge benefit.

  • At the October, 2011 Cal-IPC Symposium at Tahoe City, Cal-IPC demonstrated the beta version of CalWeedMapper ( CalWeedMapper is a quad-level online atlas of wildland weed distribution based on data from various sources including local expert knowledge. Calflora has been working closely with Cal-IPC since 2010 to collect weed observation data for CalWeedMapper.

    If you are working on weeds for a county or weed management area, CalWeedMapper will suggest which weeds are the important targets in your area, and produce documentation that can help secure funding for surveillance, eradication and containment efforts.

Applications Pertinent to Weed Data

Observation Hotline
to find what weed observations people have been contributing recently, on a map with photos.

Plant Observation Entry
to enter observations one at a time.

Phone Applications
to make onsite observations with your phone, Android or iPhone.

Photo Upload
to transform photos of plants into observation reports. If a photo is geotagged, the software will pick up the location; otherwise, you can set the location on a map.

My Observations
to review, edit and publish your observations.

Observation Upload
to upload an entire dataset directly into the database by copying and pasting, for instance, from a spreadsheet. During the upload process, you assign fields in the dataset being uploaded to fields in the Calflora database. For line and polygon shapefiles, the geometries are stored on the server and associated with your uploaded records.

Carthamus lanatus, distaff thistle, in western Marin Co.

Crupina vulgaris, bearded creeper, near Annadel State Park (Santa Rosa) © 2011 Mike Perlmutter
Certain weeds in certain areas seem to be spreading faster than Google Maps updates its aerials.

-   Anononymous weed observer, 2014


Recording Absence

    It is possible to record the absence of a plant by indicating the name of the plant, the area where you looked for it, and the date when you looked for it.

  • Go to the Plant Observation Entry application and press .

  • Choose a Project that has the Number of Plants field. If the value of Organization is Independent (the default), choose the Advanced Data Collection project.

  • On the map, move to the general area where you looked for the plant, and zoom in. Press Shape (left) and enter a polygon to describe the survey area.

    (If you have already drawn the polygon and saved it by name, choose it from the SAVED SHAPES drop down.)

  • Enter the name of the plant.

  • In the Number of Plants field, choose 0, indicating absence.

  • Save the record.

  • Go to the Checklist Entry application and press . Enter the date.

  • Press SHAPE (top) and enter a polygon to describe the survey area.

    (If you have already drawn the polygon and saved it by name, choose it from the SAVED SHAPES drop down.)

  • Press PLANT LIST, and add the names of the plants you are looking for. Initially, set the COUNT value of each plant to ? (unknown).

  • When you find a plant on the list in the area, set the COUNT to a number (17) or a range (51 - 100) to indicate its relative abundance in the area.

  • If you looked for a plant on the list and do not find it, set COUNT to 0, indicating absence.

  • Save the record.