Canine conservationists are key new combatants in the war against invasive plant species. We train dogs to nose out weeds where detection eludes the human eye.
Invasive plant species cost as much as £2 billion every year in Britain alone. The only way to cut this expense is to catch them before they spread.
That’s where detection dogs come in.
Whereas humans often can’t spot invasive plants until after they have taken over, dogs can scent the first infestation, alerting ecologists to noxious weeds before they choke the native ecosystem.
Trained to pinpoint the odour of a target plant species – imperceptible even to expert ecologists – dogs can identify the first colonists or the last survivors of a plant population that have resisted chemical treatment. Left unchecked, even the smallest fragment can quickly repopulate. Detection dogs are one of our best defences against that happening – boosting biosecurity and reducing the long-term eradication cost.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Invasive Plant Science and Management found that dogs sniffed out twice the number of invasive plants that humans could detect visually.
But it isn’t only bio-security where working dogs excel. We can train dogs to identify any number of rare and protected species, including those that are under threat due to unsustainable harvesting for the traditional medicine markets.
Other work for the dogs includes detecting organic imports at air and sea ports, and tracking plant-eating insects and tree diseases.
Have a question about our plant conservation service? Get in touch to find out more.