EFEBy Susana Madera Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador

Blackberry and guava add flavor to a range of dishes and are ingredients in exotic desserts but they also pose a mortal threat to endemic species on Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, where scientists have deployed drones to track those and other invasive plants and check their spread.

They are turning to those aircraft and to satellite imagery in a search for answers about the approximate reach of invasive species, the magnitude of the task required to control them and whether any plant species compositions promote or limit the habitat range of threatened fauna.

Those technologies also are being employed to map important endemic plant species such as Scalesia pedunculata and Miconia robinsoniana, and thereby are playing a key role in ecosystem restoration efforts.


The genus Scalesia encompasses 15 species, including three trees that can grow to heights of almost 15 meters (49 feet) and shrubs which are found in arid zones and emit a fragrant aroma.