Mapping the Progression of Invasive Species with Crowdsourced Data

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Nature journal Scientific Data has released a study from Anglia Ruskin University on mapping the progression of invasive species using a citizen science database. Taking data extracted from the UK Ladybird Survey, the study shows how the harlequin ladybird has made its progression throughout the country. Introduced in the 1980s, this invasive species from Asia was originally meant to control aphid populations, but is now lessening the prevalence of smaller, native ladybird species in the UK.

This publicly available study showcases an approximate 48,510 harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) sightings – all obtained through participation of the public – over the course of a decade. The species is seen as spreading over 60 miles per year during the early progression of the species, with the insect now common in England and Wales, with increasing reports in the south of Scotland.

The spread and distribution in 10 km squares in Britain, the Channel Islands and Ireland of Harmonia axyridis from 2003 to 2016.
The spread and distribution in 10 km squares in Britain, the Channel Islands and Ireland of Harmonia axyridis from 2003 to 2016. Source:

There have been few studies systematically examining this impact of this insect from the beginning of its invasion, but the model of the UK Ladybird Survey has enabled the public to contribute to this research on a large scale, showcasing the importance of “citizen science,” and involvement of the average person’s participation in environmental studies.

Co-lead Professor Helen Roy stated on Anglia Ruskin’s news release“It has been incredible to see the way in which so many people have got involved in tracking this invasion – it is a truly collaborative project.  We have been able to answer many important ecological questions using this vast dataset. This would not have been possible without these inspiring citizen science contributions.”

The Study

Brown, P. M. J., Roy, D. B., Harrower, C., Dean, H. J., Rorke, S. L., & Roy, H. E. (2018). Spread of a model invasive alien species, the harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis in Britain and Ireland. Scientific Data, 5, 180239.

The Data Used in this Study

Roy, H.E.; Brown, P.M.J.; Harrower, C.; Dean, H.J.; Rorke, S.L.; Roy, D.B. (2017). Harmonia axyridis invasion: UK distribution data 2004-2016. NERC Environmental Information Data Centre.

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