An enhanced and redesigned biodiversity assessment tool is now available for testing. The photograph-based identification charts have been modified for use on tablet computers. In addition to invertebrate herbivores, the charts now include predators, parasitoids and fungi. We would like feedback on all aspects of the new biodiversity charts for New Zealand flax and Cabbage trees.
The Plant-SyNZ (pronounced plant signs) biodiversity assessment tool consists of photographs of distinctive insect, mite and nematode herbivores and their plant damage symptoms on plants, natural enemies associated with these invertebrate herbivores, and fungi and other micro-organisms with distinctive symptoms found on chosen species of plant. These identification charts are now available as pdf files with high resolution photographs. The charts can be printed, but are designed for use on portable computers, especially tablet computers. The idea is that when something is found on a plant you can scroll through the photos until you find a matching image. If you need to see more detail you can enlarge the photograph. Each photo is accompanied by a brief description, the name of the organism and a number that matches the name on a recording form.
In addition to the standard identification chart for each plant species, there is a version suitable for school students and another for ‘experts’, scientists and consultants. Each version has a matching recording form. The identification charts and recording forms can be downloaded from Demonstration Identification Charts.
This biodiversity assessment tool can be used to make a list of invertebrates and micro-organisms on the chosen plant species in a particular habitat such as a park, school grounds or a reserve. It can also be used to compare what is present on the chosen plant species in two or more places, such as school grounds and a near by native plant reserve. After you have tried out this tool we would appreciate your comments about the identification charts and recording forms. Please send us your feed back on our choice of photos, the arrangement of the photos, the text accompanying the photos and the link with the recording forms.
The database was updated in August. There are now 6863 host-associations with 1517 plants and 2584 invertebrates. Update includes information from all volumes of the New Zealand Entomologist and more records of wood boring beetles. The New Zealand insect with most host plants is the long horn beetle, Oemona hirta, (lemon tree borer) with over 160 host plant species!
The Plant-SyNZ database links New Zealand plants with their insect and mite herbivores. The database can be searched by plant or by herbivore name and produces reports that list the herbivores associated with a plant or the plants on which a herbivore lives. This information is of importance to people with interests in biodiversity, biosecurity, ecology and education.
The database, which was originally developed to keep track of information about leaf mining insects and gall forming insects and mites has been expanded to include all kinds of invertebrate herbivores and present contains the names of 1386 plant species, 2482 herbivore species and 6209 herbivore-host plant associations.
A possibly unique feature of the Plant-SyNZ database is the reliability index used to score each host association. The quality of information supporting a host association varies from excellent (insect reared on host plant) to poor (adults found sitting on host plant). Each association is given a score from 0 to 10, with 10 being excellent evidence and 0 a mistake in the literature. The reliability index also allows users to filter information above a minimum level of quality.
Another feature of the database is that it has a direct link to the plant databases hosted by Landcare Research and when it is available it will link directly to the invertebrate names database.
The project has been made possible thanks to two New Zealand Crown Research Institutes, Crop & Food Research and Landcare Research, with the support of the Terrestrial and Freshwater Biodiversity Fund (TFBIS) Programme. The TFBIS programme is funded by Government to help achieve the goals of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, and is administered by the Department of Conservation.
Many useful comments were received and these will be incorporated into the identification pages when the next version is printed. This is dependent upon finding a source funding and perhaps a sponsor. Please let me know of any suggestions.
TFBIS funding for an online herbivore-host plant database (July 2005)
Within the next two years a joint project between Crop & Food Research and Landcare Research will make part of the herbivore-host plant database available on the internet. Users will be able to search by herbivore to give a list of its host plants or search by plant species to give a list of associated herbivores. The database will focus on native herbivores and native plants, but will also give the non-native associations for each native herbivore and plant species. The database will also be linked to two Landcare databases, one for plants and the other for insects and mites. It will be possible to start from either Landcare database, go to Plant-SyNZ™ and then to the other Landcare database.
Another feature of the Plant-SyNZ™ herbivore-host plant database on the internet is that it will indicate the quality of information supporting a particular host association, by using a reliability score of 0-10 (10 is high quality information supporting the association). Users will also be able to choose to see the reasons given for the score. Later this year trial formats for the results of searches of the database will be available for comment.