About "arrived in the region via anthropogenic means" notice

Do you think iNaturalist should have different kinds of “arrived in the region via anthropogenic means” notices that will tell the user whether said species has a harmful, beneficial, or negligible affect on the environment it’s been introduced to? For the sake of simplicity I’m going to refer to this notice as an invasive species label.
The concept of an artificially introduced invasive species can carry an inherent stigma, even though some invasive species have actually had a positive (or at least negligible) affect on their new environment. I was wondering if others would agree that more than one kind of invasive species label would be more appropriate and give more context to invasive species as a whole. This isn’t a feature request, just me asking what others think.

EDIT TO ADD: Several people have told me that the Western Honey Bee has had a negative impact on bee species native to the Americas, and its positive impact is on the economy. I didn’t know this before, thanks for the information.
A green label to indicate that the artificially introduced species has an overall positive impact on it’s new environment. An example being the Western Honey Bee in the Americas.

A yellow label to indicate that the artificially introduced species can have a negative impact on it’s new environment if not managed appropriately, but is otherwise relatively harmless or even beneficial to its environment. An example being the Domestic Cat. Cats can have a positive impact by helping to moderate rodent populations, which in turn can moderate disease and prevent loss of food for both humans and other animals. But cats can also have a negative impact on their environment by for example; overhunting their prey, which depending on circumstance, can open a Pandora’s box of unforeseen environmental consequences. Or too many feral cats leading to an overpopulation of cats in certain areas which can spread disease and cause hardship otherwise preventable if handled appropriately by humans.

An orange label to indicate that the artificially introduced species has a negative affect on it’s new environment, and instances of said species in the wild may need to be relocated or killed. This applies to species that originated as pets that escaped captivity, like the Red-eared Slider, but aren’t an immediate threat or an environmental crisis, and aren’t a threat to their new environment while in captivity.

And a red label indicating that the artificially introduced species is an immediate threat to it’s new environment and instances of it should be exterminated, like the Spotted Lanternfly or the Silver Carp (AKA the Asian Carp) in the United States.

I know the examples I gave focus on just the Americas, and I’m open to hearing examples of species considered invasive from other parts of the world. As some one who lives in the US I know more information about species considered invasive here and it’s easier for me to use them as examples. Thanks for reading this.


I think your idea is interesting and has some merit but arriving at how to determine if a species is harmful or not and to what level may not be known for many years.

Also, your example of western honeybees having a positive effect is not something I agree with. There are hundreds of native bees species that are in decline and part of that can certainly be attributed to having to compete with western honeybees for resources. If you take a look at flowers and what bees are pollinating,them, here in California I see many plants with nothing but western honeybees on them. Those plants were here long before honeybees arrived and I would suspect that there were many more native bees pollinating them at that time.

However the actual pest species like the spotted lantern fly or species like the pythons in Florida that are devouring everything they can definitely could be designated as harmful.

I’m not sure how such data on inaturalist would be used but I suppose you could do a search to find a list of species based on their level of impact on the environment.


there are several million feral cats in Australia, which kill, without exaggeration, billions of native animals every year. They are anything but relatively harmless.

I understand the thought process behind your proposal, but I just don’t see it as feasible when this kind of assessment varies greatly for the same species depending on the context and location, or is non-existent for the vast majority of species; many introduced species may only have been present in new locations for a handful of years, and thus their actual impact on the environment difficult or impossible to assess yet (the notion of sleeper weeds is particularly relevant here).

Also (something you hint at), no matter how noxious or negatively impactful the species, you can find some positive interactions it has in its novel environment. When lantana, one of the worst invasive plant species in the world, is removed, small birds and reptiles can decline in the area, as the thickets actually provide greater cover and protection for them.

In my eyes, the “arrived in the region via anthropogenic means” label is not designed or intended to provide any sort of judgement or assessment of the species impact on that novel environment (although of course that is the stigma it carries as you note); it is merely an objective indicator that the species is not native to that area, full stop.


I’m not sure there are “positive invasions”. In general the introduction of an exotic species will introduce competition for a certain niche and often the alien species has the upper hand. The question is if there is actual proof certain species are exotic and if so were humans responsible for their introduction (I suppose the first finches to reach Galapagos were not native and were not introduced by human activity…). For instance, certain species of sea slugs have long thought to have been spread by ships from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific and vice versa (either clinging to hulls or carried in ballast tanks) but DNA has been showing that most (but not all…) are simply similar looking distinct species living in different parts of the ocean.



Free-roaming cats definitely deserve a red-label. The graphic is for bird mortality, but cats kill native herpetofauna and mammals as well. Research also shows that cats kill regardless of hunger, so even if populations can be “managed appropriately”, it only takes a relatively low number of cats to have a disproportionate effect. Well-researched Integrated Pest Management practices are far better at controlling rodent populations.

Western Honey Bees in the Americas have an overall positive impact on the economy, but are neutral at best for the environment. At worst, they help facilitate the spread of invasive plants that they coevolved to pollinate, they spread diseases to native pollinators, and compete with native pollinators for floral resources.

I think rightly so. The best examples I can think of for beneficial introduced species are biocontrols introduced to control other introduced, invasive species. And even then, I think rigorous research is needed to evaluate impact before introduction (to avoid disasters like Cane Toads in Australia). We should be very skeptical of alleged benefits of introduced species. In other words, they should be presumed detrimental unless proven otherwise.

As a note, I think all species are wonderful in their native environments. I think the stigma associated with invasives is more of a judgment on humans than it is on the species themselves.


Beneficial invasives are not a thing.


I’m having difficulty with the context you are offering for the examples of your green, yellow, orange, and red examples. Without getting too deep into the weeds, I could argue with the categorization of ALL of them by your own system. “Negative/harmless/beneficial effect on it’s new environment” is terribly over-simplified. In the context of native bees, the Western Honey Bee would not deserve a green label. In the context of native songbirds, the Domestic Cat would deserve a screaming red label, and so forth. No single label system could reflect this complexity and I would argue that pigeon-holing a given non-native species into one category or another runs the risk of masking this complexity.


No, I don’t think that iNaturalist should even try to label things as positive, neutral, or negative. Any time you get these terms, as well as many others (beneficial, detrimental, etc.) they are loaded subjective terms that are not well-defined. Beneficial to whom? Detrimental to whom?
I feel like “brought by anthropogenic means” is very well defined. But all these other terms? Not so much. And what if it’s both detrimental in some ways and beneficial in some ways? There is no objective way to measure benefit and detriment and see which way the scales are tipped. Any numerical assignments to benefit or detriment would be arbitrary.


I agree with your assessment. In a subjjective scale, this forum would seek to qualify the naturalists’ perception through observation above the quantitative, exhaustive research provided through science and empirical methods.

1 Like

Honeybees are livestock that crowd out and spread disease to native bees, I wouldn’t call them beneficial outside of an agricultural context
This example in of itself is probably the whole reason why inat doesnt have something like this. Some introduced things have more or less impact than others (introduced terrestrial isopods or house centipedes in the americas are not really an issue, compared to say, nonnative plants that form monocultures or feral cats), but I think its very hard to put every introduced species everywhere through a blanket impact rating system, if you find out something is nonnative to your area through inat though, learning that can be your own springboard for figuring out how much impact that thing has


I agree with those who said that this cannot be quantified like the suggestion from the OP, however I too would like to see an additional label in those cases where a governing body has declared a species highly invasive. There is a EU list of invasive and prohibited species, for example, which could be implemented in the same way that iNat already implemented different labels for threatened species.


Parasitoids and parasites that live on one host that is introduced to an area are pretty beneficial, there’re potential risks, but they’re not on the same level as invasive organisms.

1 Like

I would rather that the distribution maps had 3 colours.

1.Wild, naturally found here. Perhaps endemic.

2.Captive / cultivated. Even better if observers remembered to Not Wild their obs.


Information from distribution maps is erratic.


You often can’t tell if this is the case for hundreds of years.

Purple Loosestrife, for example, was introduced to North America in the early to mid-1800s, but it’s mainly in the last 50 or so years that it’s become a major problem.

In addition, different people will have extremely different ideas as to what constitutes positive/negative/neutral impacts, even in professional circles. An example is as @Naturephotosuze pointed out; Western Honeybees have had a majorly negative impact on the biodiversity of the Americas, but many people see them as being a positive thing, and many have no idea the they’re not native.

I would very much disagree with this suggestion.

For folks, who are interested in the issue of invasive species and would like to look through a more international raking of them, the Invasive Species Compendium maintains a global dataset with a lot of species specific information. It’s an excellent resource:


Yes, that’s what the label is for. The species’ effect on the area’s ecosystem is not taken into account and, as many others have explained, it’s not really feasible for iNat to determine and label a species’ effect on an area for every part of the world. Just adding and updating conservation status listings, which dohave a tangible effect on iNaturalist observations, is never ending.


It would be nice to see a quick “escaped, intentionally introduced, unknown” addition. I understand that info isn’t known for many species, but interesting nonetheless and hard to find even when it is known.


“arrived in the region via anthropogenic means” is sufficient for me. It let’s me know that if I am interested then I can investigate elsewhere.
In the U.S. there are national state and sometimes local classifications.
What is in one classification in one area may be in a different classification in another area,or not even be present.
A species may be in a small area this year and increase its range rather quickly. It would be difficult to keep up with these changes.


I agree. I think keeping it simple and not trying to introduce subjective value judgements is a better way to go.


It seems like the current option of flagging things as captive/cultivated and also taxon information about something being introduced can make these two factors overlap:

  • Origin - Where did it come from?
  • Intentionality - Why is it there now?

Maybe keeping them separate is best?


  • Native - For local taxa
  • Non-Native - For introduced species
  • Naturalized - Prolific non-natives


  • Wild - Growing without human intent
  • Captive - Growing with human oversight

I’m sure these suggestions have their own problems as well.

1 Like

Ecology isn’t rocket science. It’s really hard. I think gradiations and individual cases are too complicated for a 4 colour system.

Dingos arrived 5 - 10ka, introduced by humans. Do we consider them native? They probably replaced (?caused the extinction of?) thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus, but now fulfil a probably similar role.
Ecologists rue the ‘dog fence’ because with no dingos south of it, cats and foxes are uncontrolled, and many animals are either extinct or suffer hugely, and many plants suffer the knock-on effects.

Blackberry - Rubus sp - are a major problem to both farmers and wildlife, but are a major saviour of southern brown bandicoots, preyed upon by the above cats & foxes.

Salvation Jane or Patterson’s Curse - same plant, different year.

‘Western bees’ Apis melifera are another menace taking over tree hollows, rock crevices etc, and out-competing native bees. But are the only pollinators left for some natives.

Even rabbits Orictolagus cuniculus, much reviled in Australia, seem to be the major remaining soil engineer, and their warrens provide shelter for animals that used to depend on bilbies, burrowing bettongs, wombats, etc.

Intra-country invasives. In Adelaide Hills, pittosporums from coastal New South Walis, and Cootamundra Wattles, from inland NSW are invasive.

Koalas, much loved by the tourist industry and ignorant ‘animal lovers’, are killing off swathes of Kangaroo Island forest + understory + animals.

So it’s a bit hard to define invasive, and it’s hard to judge if they’re ‘good’ or ‘Bad’