Bay Area Early Detection Network
Bay Area Early Detection Network
- Audubon Canyon Ranch, Glen Ellen, CA
- Marin Municipal Water District, Corte Madera, CA
- US Fish & Wildlife Service, Petaluma, CA
- Olofson Environmental, Inc., OBO San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Project, Berkeley, CA
- Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Los Altos, CA
- Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture, Concord, CA
- Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, Santa Rosa, CA
- Santa Clara County Department of Agriculture, San Jose, CA
- San Francisco Natural Areas Program , San Francisco, CA
Please note that all data below was derived from the collaboration's nomination for the Collaboration Prize. None of the submitted data were independently verified for accuracy.
Control and eradication of invasive plants is a high priority in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the nation’s 6 most significant biodiversity hotspots. Invasive species pose many problems such as competition with native vegetation, agricultural threats, and diminished wildlife habitat and ecosystem function.
Paired with prevention, early detection and rapid response (EDRR) represents the highest level of environmental protection against invasive plants. Early-stage detection and treatment of invasive plant infestations—when they are small and prior to long term establishment—greatly increases treatment efficacy and return-on-investment (yielding a $17-$34 return for every $1 invested); and greatly reduces ecosystem damage, treatment impacts, and financial costs.
Land management agencies across the region have independently adopted EDRR resolutions. Invasive plant introductions and dispersal stretch across jurisdictional boundaries, preventing any single land-management agency from effectively tackling the problem alone. Coordination at a regional scale is needed.
BAEDN formed in 2006 to meet this need, operating across the 9 county region. BAEDN now encompasses an expanding partnership of >70 organizations and provides critical regional early detection coordination, expertise, equipment and funding to its partners. By contributing to and receiving information at the regional level, partners gain a clearer understanding of species distributions and can act more strategically. In sharing resources, partners also receive economies of scale with resources, training and technical support.
Engage stakeholders from key invasive plant management organizations fromthe region.
Formed 11 member steering committee to guide organizational administration and set clear goals and objectives reflecting regional needs.
Additional input solicited from other partners to guide technical decisions and bring in additional resources
Initiated working groups for main implementation areas.
Stakeholder engagement accounts for varying needs and synergizes results > than the contributions of the individuals.
Collaborative framework allows partners to work together on shared concerns that span the boundaries of discrete land jurisdiction boundaries and missions.
Capacity multiplied & complimented across organizations, and the collaboration builds traction with funders and supporters so that regional ambitions can be realized.
Segregating responsibilities between the Steering Committee, Working Group members, staff, and broader community collaborators maximizes the efficiency of collaboration.
Steering Committee for key organizational decisions, such as setting organizational structure and operations procedures and human resource decisions.
Working groups technical, scientific, and implementation-related decisions.
Staff and partner outreach to community.
BAEDN staff carries out day-to-day activities and also leads larger initiatives informed by partner involvement.
Structure allows for clear assignment of roles and has efficiently engaged partners according to their interests and availability. This structure also allows for flexibility and maximum opportunities for collaborative participation by partners.
Challenge: Shift land management paradigm, which often allocates on-going resources to manage well-established invasive plant species and populations but does not consider preventative actions. Solution: recalibrate management goals to fold in and embrace EDRR as a value added to maintaining the regional greater good. BAEDN created a website with educational and coordination resources and a listserv to keep partners connected. BAEDN partners conducted extensive outreach, growing the partnership, regional support, & participation in the network. BAEDN also hosted a region-wide workshop that reached a wide range of participants.
Challenge: new technology needed. Solution: BAEDN developed a database to store California-wide invasive plant occurrence information through a partnership with Calflora. This database stores occurrence data from organizations and individuals alike. It provides a platform for concerned citizen scientists to make direct contributions to the understanding of invasive plant distribution in California and is a key resource for managing these species. Currently the database leverages almost 100,000 invasive plant occurrence records from across California from a wide array of database sources and individual contributions.
A cell phone app that allows for mapping & data collection of invasive plant species will add more accessibility. Formerly GIS data collection relied on expensive equipment out of the price range or technical understanding of non-professionals. We are overcoming this by literally putting the tools of the trade directly into the hands of the community in user-friendly framework.
Challenge: prioritizing eradication. Solution: BAEDN prioritizes EDRR for invasive plant populations with the highest impacts, threats, and feasibility of eradication. Not yet widely established highly invasive species known to pose threats to parklands, agriculture, human health & safety, and sensitive, threatened, and/or endangered species were identified. Limited distribution but highly invasive species populations were identified and subsequently prioritized for eradication using GIS analysis tools developed by academic partners.
Results are shared with land management partners so they can address plants under their jurisdictions. Where partner resources are lacking, BAEDN brings additional funding through regional grants to cover unmet partner needs, adding new capacity.
Tangible products (such as lists of regional early detection target species, and maps of eradication targets), technology developments (such as development of a California weed occurrence database and weed-mapping applications developed for “smart” phones), increased coordination, communication, and collaboration (measured in setting of regional priorities and goals), on-the-ground extirpation and eradication of invasive plant species (measured by species eradicated, prevention of new invasive establishment, populations and acreages under treatment), new regional funding source for invasive plant EDRR, increased engagement by citizens through volunteer detection programs, and establishment of a model that can be transferred to other regions throughout California.
BAEDN is built to support creation of a national system of coordinated early detection networks. Our infrastructure conforms to guidelines produced by the National Invasive Species Council, employs standards developed by the North American Weed Management Association, and uses frameworks aligned with those of other regional early detection networks across the country. With strategic goals and responsible evaluation and communication of outcome, BAEDN serves as an example of the change we must make to succeed in our conservation commitment.
Purpose & Need
The San Francisco Bay Area is served by hundreds of nonprofits that protect our water, wildlife, and working farms and ranches. Biological invaders are the second greatest threat to protecting natural areas; only habitat destruction poses a greater threat. Costs of invasive species impacts are estimated at $143 billion/yr in the US, and California spends over $82 million/yr. Thousands of staff and volunteers work removing invasive plant infestations to ensure that we have natural places to hike, see wildlife, and enjoy the peace of nature.
However, actions of these dedicated individuals and organizations are often poorly planned, employ inefficient and ineffective techniques, and lack clear objectives or evaluation of outcome. Land managers often lack the capacity to identify and address emerging threats to their lands. Organizations compete for resources which support redundant projects; lack of coordination means that actions often do not receive required follow-through and so are doomed to failure. In human health, doctors managing outbreaking invasive organisms (i.e. diseases) are coordinated by national or international frameworks; in protection of natural lands, efforts are not coordinated across the region, among organizations, or even between neighbors.
There are effective solutions that save money and protect wildlands. Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) is the most proactive, precautionary, and cost-effective means of protecting against the harm caused by biological invaders. With the “late detection, slow response” model, invasive plant populations grow until they exclude wildlife and vegetation, are impossible to eliminate, and so must be managed in perpetuity using expensive and high-environmental-impact methods. In contrast, EDRR greatly increases efficacy and return-on-investment, with a cost-benefit of $17-34 for every $1 invested. In addition to protecting the “patient” and saving money, EDRR systems require effective information management systems and coordination among actors. Realizing one of these outcomes is an important accomplishment; accomplishing all of them is a revolution.
What We Are Changing
The Bay Area Early Detection Network (BAEDN) is a regional collaboration intended to include essentially every nonprofit working in this field within our region. We coordinate EDRR to infestations of harmful invasive plants, proactively dealing with new outbreaks before they grow into large and costly environmental threats. This “stitch-in-time” approach prevents environmental and economic damage; educates citizens; and dramatically reduces the planning and resources required to control large, established invasive plant infestations.
1) Coordinates EDRR actions among hundreds of entities to improve financial and programmatic efficiencies;
2) Aggregates existing tools and best management practices, merges redundant infrastructure, and develops new shared infrastructure to improve productivity and effectiveness;
3) Creates new technological and conceptual frameworks to professionalize our work, including specific and measurable objectives, tracking of outputs and performance, and evaluation of outcome;
4) Brings in new revenue and resources;
5) Safeguards the health of our land, air, and water by ensuring that the most important actions are taken first, using effective and efficient methods.
Metrics used to track changes vary depending on specific objectives. The following section describes some of the changes we have realized recently, including increases in key outputs, significant positive outcomes, and encouraging qualitative improvements in the level of collaboration among our nonprofits. The most important outcomes are those that safeguard our natural areas, including number of harmful infestations detected, number of infestations under treatment, and number of infestations eliminated. While we collect quantitative data on these outcomes, these data cannot be used to show improvement over pre-existing conditions since essentially no nonprofits collected such outcome data prior to the start of this project. For this reason, our systematic collection and aggregation of quantitative EDRR outcome data is itself an important outcome of the project.
With this broad partnership, BAEDN has been able to effectively regionalize EDRR actions. Together, our collaboration:
• Used science-based tools to develop the region’s first early detection target list. These 73 species threaten the Bay Area but can still be eradicated if acted upon promptly.
• Reported new infestations of target species to a shared geographic database, including discovery of at least one harmful species new to the region.
• Prioritized infestations for eradication, using a cutting-edge tool developed by partners at the University of California.
• Contacted entities responsible for each priority infestation, to verify status, encourage prompt treatment, and collect treatment and outcome data; 50 of the top 50 priority infestations are now under treatment.
• Initiated environmental permitting so that we can fund rapid response to remove untreated infestations during the 2011 field season.
• Promulgated regionally standardized methods for data collection and monitoring, collaborating with partners to implement and evaluate them. Standardized methods allow for evaluation of effectiveness and promote improved practice. BAEDN is the central node for this information and will communicate valuable lessons learned back to partners.
Collaboration is central to effective EDRR. For example, a harmful outbreak managed in one park is able to reinvade from neighboring infestations; without regional collaboration much of our effort is wasted on “bailing a leaky boat.” What’s more, capacity limitations and nonprofit staff turnover leaves many projects not completed. Our target list is being used by nonprofits across the region. Our infestation prioritization is ensuring that regional neighbors work together toward common ends. Our treatment tracking and outcome monitoring is providing continuity in the event of local staffing changes.
Combining and sharing resources results in valuable efficiencies. Many of the tools required for effective EDRR have already been created, but organizations frequently expend resources “reinventing the wheel.” The breadth of our partnership means enables us to identify existing tools and make them available to partners via our website (BAEDN.org), listserv, trainings, and other outreach. When new tools are required we have aggregated partners’ expertise and resources to build shared infrastructure. Examples include:
• Standardized volunteer programs to supply partners with materials, methods and trainings. The Weed Watchers franchise was adopted by at least 4 organizations that would otherwise built separate redundant programs.
• A shared “cloud” database for mapping plant occurrences. Instead of building a new database and contributing to the “database Tower of Babel” that makes it difficult for nonprofits to share information, we adopted and adapted the most established existing database. Now, due to our efforts, professionals and volunteers across the state are contributing to a single shared database. It houses almost 100,000 invasives records, and continues to grow in size with user contributions and increased integration.
• Using this shared database and mapping infrastructure, rather than building new systems, partners then direct resources into creating new modules. One module lets partners view and mange their database contributions using advanced Google maps systems. Another partner is funding polygon capability so that nonprofits can upload existing GIS datasets and more easily transition to this shared system.
• Combining resources results in improved planning and management, and also results in cost efficiencies. One partner funded development of a smart phone app for mapping that interfaces wirelessly with the shared database, replacing cumbersome hardware and software. Investing in shared infrastructure saved this nonprofit $6000 in annual software costs.
• Four other partners have pooled resources to fund an iPhone version of this mapping app. Upon learning that scientists at UCLA are building a similar app, we invited them into our collaboration; we are now paying the UCLA team to build a shared app that will be used by professionals across North America.
Based on the strength of our partnership, we have been successful at bringing additional revenues. For example:
• California Dept of Food and Agriculture, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service have awarded BAEDN $446K to fund EDRR, matched by $160K in-kind services.
• We secured $145K in ARRA funding to treat high priority infestations in 2011. We are collaborating with partners to develop a fair and transparent system to allocate funds, and to leverage them to complement existing resources.
• Priorities provided by BAEDN have enabled partners to individually increase revenues. Marin-Sonoma WMA received $35K/yr for 3 years to implement BAEDN-prescribed actions, and Audubon Canyon Ranch received foundation support to participate in BAEDN work.
• By identifying regional priorities, BAEDN has made it possible to focus resources where they are most needed. For example, the region’s only fertile Capeweed infestation is a critical but ambitious target; at 536 acres, it was treated only with the combined efforts of six funders and partner organizations.
Aligned for Collaboration
The BAEDN’s partner organizations collaborate because there is no other way to fulfill our shared, overlapping missions. Control and eradication of invasive plants is a high priority for many Bay Area nonprofits, including farmland & water organizations, plant & wildlife organizations, and many others. Scientific studies, whitepapers, and strategies identify EDRR as “the single most important element” in management of invaders. Many BAEDN partner organizations have committed to EDRR in strategic and management plans, but it is difficult for a lone entity to undertake EDRR actions; they require costly mapping, planning, and infrastructure, and regional focus and action. BAEDN was built by environmental nonprofits, agencies, and researchers to serve a shared need for regional coordination, strategy, and increased resources to effectively protect natural areas.
Starting with 30 founders in 2006, these partners have worked together to design their network, built technical tools and recruited additional partners, and raised funding to hire full time staff. The BAEDN now encompasses an expanding partnership of nearly 100 organizations representing a broad spectrum of natural resource managers, academics, and concerned citizens. Our most recent partners meeting had more than 200 attendees, and we believe there are more than 1000 BAEDN partners across the region. We all built BAEDN together, we all own it, and we are already benefiting from the improvements this collaboration brings.
One of the key principles of the collaboration is “maximum inclusivity.” From the start BAEDN sought key stakeholders and organizations around the Bay Area. These partners were brought in at the very beginning and have been instrumental in building the initiative. Agricultural commissioners, policy and science experts, and land managers were recruited to serve on a nine member steering committee. The steering committee’s expertise with invasive plant management and organizational administration ensured a well organized operation with clear goals and objectives that reflect regional needs. Additional input to help guide technical decisions has come from topically-based Working Groups.
Responsibilities are allocated among the Steering Committee, Working Group, staff, and the broader partnership. This structure assigns clear roles, engages partners according to their interests and availability, and allows for maximum opportunities for collaborative participation. Stakeholder engagement ensures that BAEDN decisions are valued and trusted by BAEDN partners with varying needs. Steering Committee members make key governance decisions such as organizational structure, operations procedures, and human resource decisions. Working group members support technical, scientific, and implementation decisions. The broader community is kept apprised of BAEDN activity via outreach efforts –updates have been presented in hundreds of talks and articles in the last 2 years.
BAEDN, A Prized Collaboration
We are heartened at the early success of this ambitious collaboration. Our success is inspiring similar efforts throughout California. We are working with partners state-wide to build CaliforniaEDN, a network of networks protecting the California from harmful new invasions; partners recently submitted grants to start new EDNs in two separate regions. Other EDNs will benefit and build from the tools BAEDN developed, and coordination among networks will drive further innovation in California and beyond. Our shared success could transform the way we cope with biological invasions, revolutionize invasive plant management, and catalyze a cascade of revitalized commitment, funding, and policy support.
The BAEDN collaboration has earned this prize by unifying hundreds of independent entities, building shared systems and infrastructure, and helping us all to believe that we can do things better. Support and recognition by the Lodestar Foundation will showcase this model and will help us to accelerate our mission of revolutionizing natural areas protection. BAEDN’s success to date stems from effectively leveraging modest funding, using innovation and hard work from a broad collaborative partnership. Collaboration Prize funding would multiply our potential and, through matching contributions, build success upon success.