Notre Dame’s Science-Based Tools for Assessing Invasion Risk (STAIR): Plants
This tool, a modification of the New Zealand Aquatic Plants Risk Assessment Tool, was developed and tested primarily on vascular plants with photosynthetically-active parts that are submerged in freshwater for at least several months each year or that float on the surface. It is a questionnaire with 38 questions related to the life history, ecology, climate tolerance and invasive history of a species. Species are assigned points based on the answers to each question, which are added together at the end for a total score. A species’ total score indicates the likelihood that it will become invasive—the higher the score, the more harmful the species.
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame developed this risk assessment tool in collaboration with a working group that included representatives from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the aquatic plant trade. Researchers at the University of Florida, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Notre Dame and Loyola University Chicago helped improve the tool.
The quality of any risk assessment depends on the information used to answer the tool’s questions. Using the best available data—scientific journals, species accounts in books, and expert opinion—to answer each question will provide the best results.