What if you could predict which nonnative plant species would become invasive weeds and when? Would it change your weed management plan?

Researchers writing in the journal  Invasive Plant Science and Management say predictions about plant behavior are within your reach – without any crystal ball gazing. All it takes is a best practices-based approach to data collection and analysis.

Invasive species generally follow a three-phase development curve – from lag to expansion to plateau. The length and rapidity of the expansion phase varies across species and determines how aggressively a plant spreads.

The key to making predictions about plant invaders is to understand the traits that signal when a rapid expansion is likely to happen. And that’s where data collection and analysis come in.

Scientists say the herbarium records collected by universities, museums and governmental organizations are a great starting point. Once you’ve verified the accuracy of existing records and specimens, you can systematically collect new data annually.

As you evaluate changes in the abundance of nonnative species over time, you can begin to identify traits linked to aggressive growth and expansion. These new insights can help you time your weed management program to begin before the next wave of invaders takes over.

Want to know more? Read the article “Constructing Standard Invasion Curves from Herbarium Data—Toward Increased Predictability of Plant Invasions” in Volume 10, Issue 4 of the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management.

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