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New mobile game offers monetary rewards for helping native plants thrive: 'We can inspire residents to get involved in the important work'

"We hope that … residents will answer this call to protect biodiversity."

"We hope that ... residents will answer this call to protect biodiversity."

Photo Credit: iStock

Finland has taken mobile gaming to the next level, introducing a way for players to not only help control invasive plant species but to earn money while doing so.

Building on the success of its launch in 2023, Crowdsorsa is once again offering financial rewards for people who film themselves destroying lupines and Himalayan balsams in the city of Espoo.

According to the city's website, players can earn up to 0.25 cents (Euro) — or around 0.27 cents in USD — for clearing a space of one square meter (close to 11 square feet) starting on June 3.

Participants need to download the Crowdsorsa smartphone app, and then record their removal of the invasive plants before and after, as the city website explains. The footage should then be uploaded to the app for review, and if approved, the cash reward can be issued to a virtual wallet or bank account.

"The good results in controlling invasive species that were achieved last summer through the crowdsourcing function of Crowdsorsa encourage continuing the work," green production manager for the City of Espoo Anna Mannermaa said. "Using different forms of volunteer work and effort, we can inspire … residents to get involved in the important work of combating invasive species. We hope that Espoo residents will answer this call to protect biodiversity."

Lupines, according to the National Park Service, can spread quickly and crowd out native species. What's more, the seeds can be toxic to animals, posing a risk to domestic and wild animals. 

Unsurprisingly, Himalayan balsams are native to the Himalayas, but they have reached Europe through human introduction. They can spread widely thanks to exploding seed pods, which can disperse the means for new growth over a wide area. 

It's no surprise, then, that Espoo wants to keep the spread of these plant species under control, and the Crowdsorsa game has a €100,000 (about $108,500) prize fund pot to access for keen weed busters.

The scourge of lupines and Himalayan balsams emphasizes the importance of only introducing native plant species to a garden. Not only will they be well-suited to local weather conditions and soil types, but they will generally not require as much water as non-native species — saving money on water bills — and will help to attract pollinators, which are essential for the human food supply system

The Espoo initiative is one of many examples of creative efforts to deal with invasive species. In the Florida Keys, for example, the local Lionfish Derby & Festival welcomes scuba divers who compete to remove the invasive lionfish from the area's waterways.

In the northeastern U.S., meanwhile, chef Jeremy Sewall is catching green crabs to fry for delicious sliders on the menus of his Row 34 restaurants. 

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