Forestry agencies testing information-sharing program in Southern Illinois

A new information-sharing system will allow Southern Illinois conservation partners to map the spread of invasive species using their smartphones.

Christopher Evans, a researcher with the University of Illinois at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Pope County, said several Southern Illinois forestry groups have come together to coordinate projects and share information.

The Shawnee National Forest, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Area are currently testing a shared database and cloud-based mapping system to track invasive species, prescribed fire and forest management data. Previously, the agencies were logging data independently of one another.

“This type of information-sharing in real time is what makes this project really innovative,” Evans said in an email.

Along with his colleague, Kevin Rohling, Evans has been working with partners to design and build the database.

The conservation partners recently completed a project mapping bush honeysuckle across multiple priority areas in Southern Illinois, Evans said. Distinct from native honeysuckle, bush honeysuckle is a low-growing shrub that out-competes native vegetation and restricts the survival of seedlings in forested areas. This leads to a reduction in plant population that has negative effects on the overall health of the ecosystem.

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