How new technology is helping fight invasive species


Invasive species can cause economic and environmental harm to the surrounding communities they reside in. National Geographic states that invasive species are organisms that are not native to a particular area or region.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

This can range from plants and shrubs to animals that dwell in waterways or on land. For example, one of the most commonly known invasive species in the United States is the lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region.

Let’s take some time to explore a few technologies being leveraged to fight off invasive species and prevent their negative impact.

What Technologies Can Fight Invasive Species?

Because invasive species can threaten existing ecosystems and the wildlife in these environments, efforts need to be made to combat their existence.

A decade ago, the U.S. Department of the Interior spent $100 million to prevent invasive species, a staggering figure. They found that certain species are the leading factor in the endangerment of fish populations in freshwater ecosystems.

Overall, invasive species contribute to the steady decline in animal populations and even lead to some species going extinct. Some tree species, like Privet and Poplar trees, across the country, have been reduced due to invasive species taking over.

One method used to combat this is employing mulchers to clear land and make room for native species. Invasive species can pose severe threats to surrounding animal life and negatively affect human food sources as well.

Here are five new technologies that can potentially mitigate the problem of invasive species.

1. Invasive Species Forecasting System (ISFS)

The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Institute of Invasive Species Science is leveraging this decision tool to help guide their efforts in controlling invasive species. In Fort Collins, Colorado, scientists at the institute use the ISFS to generate color-coded maps to help predict and manage the areas where invasive species tend to spread.

The ISFS is essentially a combination of USGS science expertise and NASA expertise in Earth observations. In addition, high computing expertise was used to help create the ISFS.

The ISFS uses tens of thousands of field sampling measurements to see where past invasive species have spread, predicting where non-native plants will grow in the future.

Another application of the ISFS is a habitat suitability assessment map that educates researchers about salt cedar in the continental U.S. Saltcedar trees are incredibly harmful to the environment because their roots can grow into underground aquifers.

The ISFS successfully predicted and mapped where they would grow — this assists in finding new ways to manage the spread of this invasive shrub.

2. Machine Learning Applications

An aspect of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), can be used in various applications to limit the spread of invasive species. Essentially, ML is a process that combines computers and statistical techniques, which enable these computers to become self-taught.

Machine learning can be used in this field to verify the accuracy of species occurrence data generated. ML can recognize any data points outside the norm, which can then be helpful in the creation of decision-based tools.

 These tools are still under development. It was reported that Google was working on a project that would clean up datasets regarding non-native species.

How new technology is helping fight invasive species
The creator of the IRobot, Colin Angle, and his wife, Erika, founder of Ixcela, have come up with a new underwater robot that can be used to hunt lionfish remotely.

3. Guardian LF1 Underwater Robot for Lionfish

The lionfish is a vicious type of invasive species that have decimated waterways ranging from the Caribbean to the Atlantic seaboard. There’s no natural predator to the lionfish, so it’s easy for their population to grow in size.

The creator of the IRobot, Colin Angle, and his wife, Erika, founder of Ixcela, have come up with a new underwater robot that can be used to hunt lionfish remotely. Guardian LF1 stuns and sucks lionfish into a holding pen — it features a visual recognition system to help identify lionfish in the surrounding area. Lionfish can be quite profitable for fishers across the region, as they sell for a reasonable price.

Whole Foods even began selling lionfish for $9.99 per pound in their stores. While the Guardian LF1 is a valuable piece of technology, it will likely take much longer to eradicate lionfish from their various areas. This is, however, paving the way for future innovation.

4. Boar Buster for Feral Pigs

Feral pigs impact areas of Texas and regions in the American Southwest. Methods of capturing invasive species have evolved, and one prime example is the trademarked Boar Buster.

The Boar Buster is an 18-foot, intricate feral hog cage equipped with an internet-connected LTE camera and smartphone app. Rather than use traditional traps, the Boar Buster is a top piece of tech changing the way we interact with invasive species.

Feral pigs are negatively impacting areas of the country, and reports state that some have even wrecked military planes on runways — it’s necessary to use new techniques, such as the Boar Buster, to manage where this species reproduces.

5. Near-Infrared Cameras for Burmese Pythons

Burmese pythons are 200-pound creatures that are considered to be invasive species to the United States. They found their way into the country during the 1980s and were initially thought of as exotic pets. Their impact, however, has more negative consequences compared to other domesticated animals.

Because these pythons are hard to identify in foliage, researchers at the University of Arizona have decided to use near-infrared detection to weed out the species. Using this type of light, researchers could identify pythons in their habitats at distances 20% farther away than relying on visible light alone.

There’s plenty of new technology being developed to improve current invasive species control methods. It will be interesting to see more tech emerge to help fight off the presence of potentially harmful species.

Creating Safe Habitats for Native Species

Conservationists and scientists must use new technologies to overcome the challenges associated with removing invasive species. More funding is necessary to help create these new technologies — incentives and prizes can also be awarded to the innovators who bring these technologies to market.

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