Illinois forestry groups test information-sharing app

SIMPSON, Ill. (AP) — Southern Illinois conservation partners are testing a new information-sharing system using their smartphones.

The state Department of Natural Resources and the Nature Conservancy are two of several forestry groups testing the database and cloud-based mapping system to track invasive species, prescribed fires and forest management data, The Southern Illinoisan reported .

Researchers with the University of Illinois at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Pope County have been working with the forestry agencies to design and create the database.

The new system allows researchers to view data while they’re in the field and see information other agencies have collected. The groups previously logged data independently.

“This type of information-sharing in real time is what makes this project really innovative,” said Christopher Evans, a researcher with the University of Illinois.

The partners recently completed a project that mapped bush honeysuckle in multiple areas across southern Illinois, Evans said. Bush honeysuckle is a low-growing shrub that competes with native vegetation.

Researchers hope the collaboration will help agencies better manage forests.

“Our forests are something we all identify with here in southern Illinois,” Evans said. “People come from all across the nation to hike the trails, camp, hunt, ride horses, stay in cabins, do driving tours, or just experience our forests. Having healthy, diverse forests with all of the native plants and wildlife that comes with it is a big part of the draw.”