top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
Explore
arrow down

Google Street View in species watch

Internet tool used to track spread of pine-munching moths

GOOGLE Street View can be a useful weapon in the costly and time-consuming fight against invasive species, French biologists have said.

A team at France's French National Agency for Agricultural Research (INRA) used the online tool, which provides 360-degree images of streets filmed by specially-fitted cars, to gauge the spread of a tree-killing insect.

The pine processionary moth, Thaumetopoea pityocampa in Latin, is a foliage-munching insect that is native to balmy southern Europe but heading northwards and to higher altitudes as temperatures rise.

Its preferred food is an evergreen called the Austrian pine, which is extensively used in Europe's managed forests and ornamental gardens.

In autumn, larvae of the moth build a nest for the winter, a highly visible home made from white, shiny silk that hangs at the end of branches like a hairy lightbulb.

Using this as a telltale, the researchers "drove" around a large area with Google Street View to map districts that had been invaded by the moth.

The area of 47,000 square kilometers, bigger than the Netherlands, was divided up into a grid of 183 large-scale "cells", each comprising 16km by 16km.

If a nest was spotted, the "cell" was marked down as infected.

The results from Google Street View were 90% as accurate as a test conducted on the ground by a human, who drove around the area in a car.

However, cyber-spotting was less successful in a different test that was carried out on a smaller scale.

"Our results show that it has some promise for future use, at least with species easily observed by means of road sampling such as the pine processionary moth," said one of the researchers involved.

Earlier this year, a similar pilot study by Spanish biologists mapped cliff sites in northwestern Spain that could be a potential habitat for two species of vulture, proving the usefulness of Google Street View for endangered as well as invasive species.

Both studies appear in the public-access journal PLoS One.
©Afp/Relaxnews, photo Daniel Mihailescu

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now