Allow Sorting Taxa by Observation Count in About Taxon Profile Page

Platform(s): Website

URLs: [[taxon_id]]

Description of need:

The taxonomy sections on the About pages for taxa currently only allow sorting alphabetically by scientific name. However, being able to sort by the number of observations for each child taxon would be very useful for quickly assessing which species/genera/families are most frequently observed within a higher taxonomic group. This would aid in learning more about the frequency and relative abundance of different taxa, which is one of the main goals of iNaturalist as a tool for learning about nature.

Feature request details:

Add an option to sort the lists of child taxa (species, genera, families, etc.) in the taxonomy section of taxon About pages by the number of observations, in addition to the current alphabetical sorting.

For example, on the About page for a genus, you could sort the species by observation count to see which are the most commonly observed species within that genus. Similarly for families sorted by genera, orders by families, etc.

This sort option would allow users to instantly see the most prevalent taxa under a higher grouping, helping reveal patterns of diversity and abundance. It directly supports iNaturalist’s educational mission around learning about nature.

Mock-up of what this could look like on the family Fagaceae About page:

Name (descending) Observations (most to least) Observations (least to most)

[Reordered list of Fagaceae genera]:

  1. Genus Quercus (900,000 observations)
  2. Genus Fagus (125,000 observations)
  3. Genus Castanea (40,000 observations) …

It only works at the species rank, which is the main rank this feature would be most useful at, but you can see the species ordered by observation number just by searching for observations. For example, here are all Quercus species in the world in order by number of iNat observations.

Note that iNat observation numbers don’t necessarily equate with how common or abundant these taxa are. It simply shows which species are commonly documented where a lot of people are making observations or which species have been adopted by people that want to make a large amount of observations of them. For example, if you look at Cylindropuntia in California, you can see that the rare species C. fosbergii has the third highest number of observations as someone is focused on detailed mapping of that species. And here is a cluster of four plants of Malacothamnus fremontii that has 63 observations so far. Those Malacothamnus are just attractive plants that a lot of people walk past.

That said, those species with very few observations highlight which taxa may be good to focus on observing more. They may not be rare. They may just be overlooked or in areas where people don’t make many observations.


On the “species with few observations” side, another possibility is that some species are commonly observed but difficult/impossible to ID from field photos and so mostly get stuck at genus or higher