Artificial Intelligence: At Salt River, Tackling The Menace Of Invasive Plants With AI

August 13, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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Drones and AI are helping a team of scientists to eradicate invasive species that are threatening Salt River’s ecosystem.

Invasive plant species such as the Salt Cedar Tree are spreading around the Salt River, Arizona, with the seeming objective to take over the area. This could prove damaging to Salt River’s native flora and fauna, and scientists have therefore deployed drones and AI to pinpoint invasive species for removal. (abc15 ARIZONA)

Ornery alien plant species at Salt River

Justin Eddinger with the Center for Adaptable Landscapes at Northern Arizona University and scientists at Arizona State University are collaborating on a project to map the Salt River area to identify invasive plants such as the Salt Cedar, Giant Reed, and Stinknet.

When these plants outnumber other flora in the area, the net result is a decrease in biodiversity.

“If there’s one type of plant, that means there’s less insects, less birds, less wildlife using that ecosystem,” says Eddinger.

Humanly, and from the ground, it is very difficult and time-consuming to spot these marauders because they sport different shapes, sizes, colors, and origins.

If the area is viewed aerially, humans would be confronted by a sea of green with all plants looking similar.

AI to the fore

Dr. Amy Frazier, Associate professor at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and geologist Arnold Kedia with ASU have developed AI-powered sensors that can map vegetation when it’s viewed from above.

The systems have been trained on data such as each plant’s leaf structure, altitude, and preferences for moist or dry areas.

Furthermore, each plant has a unique spectral signature and reflects light in its own unique way.

The systems can therefore create three-dimensional images from aerial images that can identify vegetation, both good or bad, with 93% accuracy.

These are then incorporated into color-coded maps that the Department of Fire and Forest Management can use to remove the alien species.

According to reports, the project has so far been a huge success with a visible reduction in invasive plants and an increase in the number of native flora.

Related Story:  The U.K. Arms Itself With AI to Combat Invasive Plant Species

Image Credit: Flickr                                                   

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