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Artificial intelligence used to map invasive vegetation

Source: Bristol Post as of 24-06-2020

ARTIFICIAL intelligence is being enlisted in the fight against invasive plants, as experts try to design a system that makes problem species easier to track. Scientists from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) and Birmingham-based Keen AI are developing a new AI system to quickly survey areas such as roadsides for invasive species of plant.

Plants such as Japanese knotweed can cause damage in the UK, but finding and tracking their spread can be expensive and timeconsuming, the experts said. The new scheme will use a high speed camera on top of a vehicle to survey up to 120 miles of roadside vegetation a day. The images will be tagged with their GPS location and uploaded onto an online platform, where UKCEH ecologists will identify the plants in the photographs.

Then the team aims to teach the AI how to correctly identify invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, rhododendrons, Himalayan balsam and cherry laurel. They will also teach the system to spot ash trees, which are native to the UK but at risk of a devastating disease, ash dieback. It is hoped that once it has learned to identify certain species, the AI will make surveying for invasive and potentially damaging plants quicker and cost-effective. A 10-month pilot project, funded by Government innovation agency Innovate UK, will survey roads in North Wales and Birmingham, the team said.

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