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Disseminating High Quality Information on Alien Plants
Iliyana Kuzmova

There are several important requirements for providing information on alien species. The information needs to be up-to-date, reliable and comprehensive, while its publication needs to be available to a wide range of stakeholders, clearly written and well illustrated. Traditional print media cannot fulfill all of these roles, but internet publication can.

The Manual of the Alien Plants of Belgium is a comprehensive guide to the plants that have been introduced to, and grow wild in Belgium. This includes a wild variety of plants, ranging from vigorous invasive species to rare casuals. Some are important agricultural weeds, some are escaped garden plants. In an era of environmental change, alien species occupy newly created niches. Halophytes spread along salted roads, new weeds grow amongst new crops; mountain plants find homes in the walls of cities and aquarium plants escape into ponds and rivers. Many of these plants cause real environmental and economic damage.

The Manual has been created using the Scratchpad system. The ability to add, correct, move and delete content at a moment’s notice means that the Manual can be reactive to new discoveries, to changes in taxonomy and to improve upon illustrations as they become available. It also allows the publication of a wide variety of other material including related publications, diagnostic keys and images of herbarium specimens.

The pro-iBiosphere project aims to promote IT publishing tools such as Scratchpads to a wider range of taxonomists. Tools such as these will make authoritative taxonomic, conservation and distributional information available to a much larger audience. These tools will allow much more efficient data reuse and the remobilization of legacy literature. Belgium might be a small country and alien plants might seem like an obscure subject. However, Belgium has a dense population; is an important transport hub; is intensive in agriculture and has hosts many industries, so despite its size it is highly susceptible to colonization by non-native species and dissemination of information on Belgium’s colonists has relevance far beyond its borders.

Quentin Groom & Filip Verloove
National Botanic Garden of Belgium

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No 312848