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Proceedings of the Workshop on Databases for Nonindigenous Plants


Workshop Highlights


The workshop provided a forum for introduction to and description of participating database programs. Attendees presented their database descriptions in a seminar format. The 2 day workshop consisted of a series of these presentations followed by open discussion periods which focused on the previously distributed discussion questions. The schedule of presentations is listed below.

Wednesday, September 24

Russ Hall, USGS Biological Resources Division:
Welcome and Opening Address
William Gregg, USGS Biological Resources Division:
Nonnative Invasive Species: an Emerging National Environmental Issue
Mark Skinner, USDA/NRCS/NPDC:
Informational Activities of NRCS Regarding Noxious Weeds
Al Cofrancesco, DOD/USACE:
Army Lands Inventory
David McNeal, USDA/APHIS:
National Agricultural Pest Information System Database
Carol Spurrier, BLM:
Interests in Tracking Nonindigenous Plants
Kathryn Thomas, USGS Biological Resources Division:
The Exotics Map Project for the 4-Corners of the Southwest
Joe Gregson, NPS:
NRMAP and NPFLORA Databases
Ken Stolte, USDA Forest Service:
Forest Health Monitoring Program
Christopher Toney, University of Montana:
INVADERS Database Project
Patrick Akers, California Department of Food and Agriculture:
Noxious Weed Inventory System
Joe Dineen, Smithsonian Research Center:
Nonindigenous Species Database for the Chesapeake Bay (a brief overview)
Levester Pendergrass, USDA Forest Service:
Forest Service Noxious/Invasive Database (a brief overview)
Pam Fuller, USGS Biological Resources Division:
National Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database

Thursday, September 25

John Kartesz, Biota of North America Program:
Digital Synthesis for Assessing Exotic and Weed Plant Distributions for North America
Philip Thomas, USGS Biological Resources Division:
Alien Species Databases of the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project
Victor Ramey, University of Florida:
Aquatic and Wetland Plant Information Retrieval System
Tom Stohlgren, USGS Biological Resources Division:
Multi-Scale Patterns of Native and Exotic Plant Diversity

Both discussion sessions were moderated by Randy Westbrooks, USDA/APHIS.

Technical Discussion Sessions

Five questions designed to stimulate discussion of the workshop objectives were initially presented within the pre-workshop information survey.

At the workshop, the first discussion sessions began with the moderator's request to:

  1. Ensure databases are accessible.
  2. Place a high priority on early detection and record management.
  3. Coordinate and interact in reporting new records for a first alert detection system.

The session continued with an examination of the questions that were presented on the preworkshop survey form. Summaries of both the written comments and verbal discussions stimulated by the questions are provided below.

Question 1: What are your comments and/or recommendations on the need of a national database for monitoring the distribution of nonindigenous plants?

Several individuals supported the idea of a national database and expressed different reasons for supporting such a program. Responses were as follows:

  • Nothing less than a national approach could provide the information needed on the large geographical scale that nonindigenous plants invade.
  • A national database could be useful in providing standards for table structure and nomenclature that could be used by individual databases.
  • A useful database could be one that specifically tracks the land area covered nationwide by nonindigenous plants. This might be especially important for land managers who need to assess precise numbers of infested acreage in order to support funding requests.

The remaining respondents supported the need for smaller, more local databases. A synopsis of comments are as follows:

  • Large databases are expensive and difficult for users in the field.
  • A national nonindigenous database would duplicate current or planned systems.
  • Emphasis should be on smaller, local databases designed with common elements so that data can be easily shared.

Overall, only mild interest was expressed in directly addressing the need for a national database to manage records on the spatial distribution of all nonindigenous plants. Additional relevant comments included:

  • The observation that all Federal databases would be required to follow Government Information Locator Service (GILS) standards, core metadata information, and other keywords.
  • To create the baseline for such a database, requests from all currently existing databases would need to be made, with the minimum information provided in a batch mode.
  • Additional resources would need to be pooled to prevent duplication of effort.

It was generally indicated that any suggestions made towards a national database would be towards the early detection/web site reporting format. Participants discussed an early detection system composed of reporting, verifying, and listing that would provide up-to-date occurrence information on new plant introductions. Participants suggested that this system would be most accessible through an interactive Internet web site. Such a web site could include an electronic reporting form and up-to-date listings. The reporting form would be supported by a minimal database, essential for compiling records. Records would be listed at the web site immediately after completion of proper assessment and verification. It was suggested that one full-time employee would be needed to verify incoming reports.

Participants were reminded of the current system within the National Agricultural Pest Information System (NAPIS) that is used for documenting records of newly introduced species. It was noted that NAPIS provides $350,000 annually per state to support this system and that existing state survey committees might easily interface with some of the networking structures just suggested. It was made clear that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has the responsibility and obligation to report all introductions of new species, regardless of their listing or status.

Questions were raised as to how the general public could access the NAPIS system, currently available through a system account. Concerns were raised as to whether APHIS allocates adequate funding for plants in the NAPIS system and if NAPIS has the resources to adequately report on the predicted increase in the number of new plant records. It was noted that NAPIS is forming a new Pest Advisory group that is expected to be able to handle an increase in reports.

The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)/National Plant Data Center (NPDC) also expressed their interest in participating in an early detection and web site reporting program. FICMNEW, the Bioinformatics Task Team within NBII, the PLANTS program, and the proposed "National Interagency Center For Nonindigenous Species" were suggested as appropriate places to house such a project and/or maintain an early detection web site.

It was stressed by participants that the success of the system would depend on the timely assessment, verification, and on-line listing of new introductions. "Getting the word out to those on the ground," to land managers, database managers, and weed teams was an important issue. The documentation of proper credit for those professionals who report on initial discoveries or submit important records was recognized as an important concern.

Question 2: What resources (funding, technical, institutional) would be required to make such a database possible?

Valid monitoring data is crucial to establishing, maintaining, and applying an occurrence database. It was agreed that collection of occurrence data on nonindigenous plants is lacking and needs to be increased. It was noted that Native Plant Societies could play a role in early detection by informing amateur botanists what species to look out for and how to identify nonindigenous plants.

Promotion of the discussed early reporting system was recognized as an important factor. Also recognized was the need to consult with current working groups, including the Botanical Electronic Newsletter (BEN) and the Interagency Center for Biological Invasions (ICBI), as well as with experts in early detection systems.

Question 3: What elements should be included in a distribution database for nonindigenous plants?

It was stressed that the database used to process new reports for the early detection web site should be minimal in structure. Those interested in acquiring more information on individual reports would be directed to the agency, individual, or database affiliated with the report. Six elements were defined for the basic structure:

  1. Standardized nomenclature
  2. County level spatial reference
  3. Collection date
  4. Collector name and affiliation
  5. Source of information (agency or database affiliated with the report)
  6. Source's reference number (i.e., record number in another database).

Also suggested was that the web site clearly define appropriate reports. Appropriate reports might include any species recorded as newly introduced to a state as well as any species newly introduced to the county.

Recognizing the likelihood that general reporting often will not originate from vouchered plant specimens, it was recommended that every record be verified with a documented specimen voucher.

Question 4: How might your agency/organization support a national database (i.e., contribute occurrence records, taxonomic support, web site linkages)?

A strong display of cooperation was evident from both written and verbal responses to this question. Database managers made generous offers to share occurrence records. Additional offers of support were made in the format of Internet distribution and web site linkages, taxonomic expertise, quality control, and technical expertise in software development for database creation and use.

Some participants mentioned that they routinely send new reports to APHIS, and the APHIS representative agreed to contribute to the discussed format.

Question 5: If there were to be a larger workshop on distribution databases for nonindigenous plants, who should conduct it, who should attend, and what issues should be addressed?

Several written responses indicated the need to conduct a larger workshop. It was suggested that the coordination of a "National Information System on Nonnative Species" is needed. And that such a system ought to have both Washington level program managers and information/database managers present in order to finalize a workable strategy.

Indeed, it was repeated at the workshop that any future meeting should not only include agency heads, but ought to require their commitment. It was suggested that the attendance of representatives from the agricultural, ranching, and horticultural industries would be beneficial. It was acknowledged that in the event of a similar gathering, all agencies and organizations should be present to portray their interests and scope.

Further discussion addressed the horticultural sector's responsibilities as initiators of new introductions. It was requested that botanical gardens make their introduction records more accessible through the Internet.

Although it was recognized that additional issues about databases need to be discussed, participants did not express a desire to commit to a subsequent workshop.

As an intermediate measure, the creation of a listserver was recommended. An offer was made to create a listserver in order to continue communication and development of ideas on managing occurrence records and information on nonindigenous plants.

Also recommended was the initiation of a Nonindigenous Plant Database Working Group Web site. This web site would provide program descriptions, contact numbers, and hypertext links to all databases with information on nonindigenous plants.

[ Introduction ] [ Background on Issues ] [ Workshop highlights ]

[ Table 1 ] [ Table 2 ] [ List of Participants ] [ List of Acronyms ]

[ Information Survey ] [ Catalog of Databases ] [ Report Documentation ]

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Biological Resources Division