The monitoring of invasive alien species is vital to the control, management, and containment of invasive species across the content. Digital tools such as mobile apps have a key role to play by utilizing citizen science to identify trends in population growth and the spread across local, national, and international environments.
There are currently 37 invasive alien species threatening the biodiversity of Europe by an encroaching presence, to combat these numerous threats there is a need for data, facts, and international cooperation. The data which can be collected and verified at the citizen level by confirmation can be vital in identifying and combatting the rise of IAS.
Several solutions have been proposed at the national and European level to try and gather this data.
IAS Europe App
The “Invasive Alien Species Europe App” which was launched in 2017 with the remit to collect and share data as well as to educate citizens, and was developed by the Joint Research Committee of the European Commission. It’s ambitious goal to crowdsource the map with data as well as to inform, has struggled to gain traction by a lack of uptake from users, and visibility among the general populations as well as people working with nature on a daily basis. Combined with the complexity of the integration to the EASIN database, as well as the difficulty of use for laymen, severely limit the potential for accurate collection of data and monitoring of threats.
The app MyHunt (Jagdgefährte in German speaking countries, and MyFieldsports in the UK), a partner and patron of FACE was founded in 2018 and has since collected over 350.000 reports of sightings of harvest of wildlife under management in Europe, and is growing this database substantially every day whilst building a professional dashboard for partners, government, and research institutions to utilize this data for research purposes. The handling of this data is fully GDPR compliant, and is only collected with the express prior consent of users before being utilized for other purposes.
The benefit this application has over other solutions whether local or national dedicated to monitoring IAS, is that the user base of the app already uses it to record information and wildlife sightings and be informed in their daily lives and activities in nature. As well as that the recording of data is user-friendly, intuitive, and easy. The over half a million users in Europe that have downloaded the app can receive communications on the importance of IAS control, local regulations, and information, as well as instant notifications on the verified presence of species in their area.
Many thousands of sightings of raccoons, squirrels and other invasive species have so far been recorded and it is their ambition to expand this program substantially to other species and offer this data, free-of-charge, to the relevant national organizations and European institutions as well to ensure to long-term support and development of this valuable tool for nature conservation, wildlife and land management, and a significant step forward to protecting European biodiversity.