“Wild plants from my street”: the urban wild plant observatory
par Adrien Geneste | 05.04.11
Presented on 28th April within the framework of the Vigie-Nature programme, in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History and the Tela Botanica network, the “Wild plants from my street” observatory will give citizens from the Ile-de-France region, as early as 3rd May, the opportunity to discover and identify the wild flora growing in their streets for scientific purposes.
Presented as the new observatory for plants we may come across in our cities, “Wild plants from my street” is based on a principle of participative science open to everyone, aimed at answering various questions scientists are asking themselves in terms of urban ecology.
An identification protocol designed for the general public
In the beginning a network of amateur ornithologists started identifying birds within the framework of the Vigie-Nature programme, under the leadership of the National Museum of Natural History, as early as 1989. The programme was then extended to the general public with the Gardens Biodiversity Observatory in 2006 and the Bumblebee Observatory in 2008. The SPIPOLL (acronym for “Suivi Photographique des Insectes Pollinisateurs”: Photographic Monitoring of Pollinator Insects) was created a year ago, just before the latest “Wild plants from my street”.
In order to enable any kind of people to participate in this scientific programme, the creation of a clear and simple plant identification protocol was required. To do so, the book “Wild plants from my street – Wild plants from the Ile-de-France region guide” displays no less than 100 wild plants species chosen among the most commonly found in the streets, paths and parks of the Ile-de-France region. Available at the price of 10 Euros in bookshops, this little practical manual designed for people with no prior training, displays each species in the form of a card completed with pictures to help them in their watching. Thus, as they will be making discoveries, the budding scientists will have the pleasure of discovering that the species they used to see as mere weeds can have properties that were up to then unknown to them. In order to participate, observers must choose a street, go all over it to note down all the places where wild plants are growing, identify species with the help of the guide, list them and then enter the results of these observations on the dedicated website.
As well as enabling everyone to become familiar with the plant species that are growing around them, “Wild plants from my street” gives protagonists of the movement the opportunity to actively participate in the making of an inventory of cities’ flora. By using this data collection, the Museum’s scientists and other research organisations will be able to refine their research works.
This principle of collaboration between the general public and the scientific world is part of participative science. The principle is quite similar to that used in transport: the greater the amount of data sent by users, the nearest you get to the critical level of necessary relevant information to help the community.
Though the “Wild plants from my street” project is only available in the Ile-de-France region for the time being, it should be extended to other cities by 2012. Tela Botanica, the network of French-speaking botanists, will be in charge of developing it with whichever local authorities should show interest in it. Botanical guides adapted to each region will then be put on the market in provincial towns.
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Photo credits: National Museum of Natural History / Bernard Faye
Translated by Oona Bijasson