Alberta introduces mapping system to combat noxious weeds

The Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System is targeting 15 invasive species:

FORT MACLEOD, Alta. — They have evil-sounding names, like Medusahead, and pretty-sounding names, like Yellow Starthistle.

These and other invasive plants are on the hit list for a new weed control measure recently implemented in Alberta.

The Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDmapS) is a project of the Alberta Invasive Plants Council. Its goal is to enlist the help of all Albertans in stopping the spread of weeds that can outcompete native plants and take over various landscapes.

The website, found at, was designed in 2005 at the University of Georgia and is used in at least 15 U.S. states. It has now been “Canadianized” and launched for use in this country, said project lead Kelly Cooley.

More Alberta-based information will be added as the project develops, but the council decided to make the site live so people could explore its interactive aspects.

“We see EDDmapS as an early detection component and then the rapid response hopefully will follow,” said Cooley.

The system will initially target 15 species. Most of them are not common in Alberta, and the invasive plants council wants to keep it that way.

“They are not very common in Alberta, but on the other hand, some of them are here and we just don’t have a very good idea of how much is here,” Cooley said.

The EDDmapS website has photos and extensive information on weed species in Canada and the United States.

People who see one of the targeted species can go to the site and indicate the location.

“The beauty of the system is you don’t necessarily have to be working with GPS co-ordinates if you don’t want to. The system allows you to zoom in on a piece of ground,” said Cooley.

From there, various dialogue boxes allow users to submit additional information and a photo. Volunteer verifiers then examine the submission and if it is confirmed, the sighting will be posted on the site.

Weed control officials from the municipality or agency responsible for weeds in that particular area will then be informed by e-mail, and they can take appropriate action.

Cooley said the system might expand to include other weeds, but not until it has been tested on the first 15.

The province has various weed databases, but Cooley said some of the information is protected or proprietary. EDDmapS is open to all.

He said the program has been well accepted in the United States and useful in weed control.

“Where the real value of EDDmapS lies, both in the States and here, is on those species that haven’t gained that beachhead yet. There maybe is an infestation in this yard or this plot, but it hasn’t spread yet.”

Cooley said he sees the project as a way to raise awareness about invasive plants and their destructive consequences. It’s not an option to ignore the problem and let nature take its course, he added.

“If we do nothing … they tend to overwhelm the vegetation that you want growing and they form their own monoculture. We’ve done nothing in some cases, and it’s been proven that was not the right approach.”

The EDDmapS project is organized and funded by the invasive plants council, with assistance from the provincial and federal governments.

War on weeds

The Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System is targeting 15 invasive species:

  • Eurasian Watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum)
  • Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus)
  • Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
  • Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
  • Hoary Alyssum (Berteroa incana)
  • Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
  • Meadow Hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum)
  • Mouse-Eared Hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella)
  • Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum)
  • Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae)
  • Pale Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacoris)
  • Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
  • Salt Cedar (Tamarix spp.)
  • Sulphur Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)
  • Yellow Starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis)

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