At what point does an anthropogenic introduction become wild?


At what point does an anthropogenic introduction become wild for the purposes of Research Grade? The observer of this Alpinia purpurata chose not to mark this as captive/cultivated and a “flag” appears at the top next to the RG tag when viewed on the website. In the spirit of respecting the observer’s choices, perhaps this particular Alpinia purpurata was not cultivated. Here on Pohnpei this plant moves slowly over the years winding up in places where the plant was not planted. Perhaps a better example is Hibiscus tiliaceus here on Pohnpei. This is locally considered to be an ancient pre-contact anthropogenic introduction that is now considered a native plant. No one intentionally plants nor cultivates H. tiliaceus. Does the anthropogenic introduction disqualify all H. tiliaceus from being RG using the “rule” applied to Alpinia purpurata example above? And if not disqualified, at what point is an anthropogenic introduction wild for RG purposes? Does this become a matter of when a plant was introduced? I think this ties to the discussion to rename Research Grade to something like community verified or one of the other options proposed. I am also wondering whether on upload the option to designate the observation as indigenous/native/introduced would be appropriate, although “introduced” can also simply be a measure of when a plant arrived. H. tiliaceus is thought to have been introduced to Pohnpei, but is now listed as a native. Pardon all of the questions, my core intent is guidance on which plants to mark “cultivated” based on anthropogenic introduction on an island where many of the plants were introductions at some point in the past.



Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any real consensus on that question. Additionally, it varies enormously by region.

In the US it’s been more-or-less decided that anything introduced after 1492 will remain in that introduced category, and elsewhere anything from the Americas that’s been introduced after 1492 is also treated as introduced, at least by many researchers.

This, unfortunately, doesn’t help at all when it comes to human movement of species that can be well documented (maize, potatoes, squash, etc) within the Americas prior to Columbus, nor does it help at all when it comes to human bases introductions elsewhere in the world… dingoes, Polynesian rat, wild sugarcane, taro, plums, bananas, etc.

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For the purposes of the “Captive / Cultivated” tag, I think it only applies to vegetation that was directly planted by a human. I wouldn’t use it in your example. Introduced species can be Research Grade.



Hi @danaleeling, I think @earthknight has answered a slightly different question to the one you asked, so I might chime in.

I’m interpreting your question to mean: where is the boundary between a ‘wild’ and a ‘not wild’ (i.e. cultivated plant or domestic animal) observation, independently of whether a plant is considered native to a place, or naturalised.

In my opinion, a plant that was clearly planted or that has persisted in a place where it was planted for many years after this place was abandoned is ‘not wild’, as that individual was placed there on purpose by someone. However, 2nd generation plants that appear (vegetatively or as seedlings) and that are different individuals to the one that was planted are carrying on further generations on their own, and are therefore ‘wild’.

The line can be blurry, and I am far more ruthless at marking ‘not wild’ individuals as such. If the plant is a commonly planted garden plant in a garden setting, I take the view that this is a cultivated individual. This stops those observations from feeding onto other projects such as GBIF and the Atlas of Living Australia. Those projects are now being used by land management authorities as a basis for decision-making, and spurious records have real-world consequences, IMO.



Thanks for this guidance. To some extent the same sort of demarcation line is possible out here. There is a vague awareness of which plants are pre-western contact introductions (usually considered native) and post-western contact introductions (usually called introduced).

Thanks, that has been the way I have been marking observations here.

That is the concern I have: decisions I am making and guidance I am providing to students has real world consequences. For example, I also suspect that there will be real world consequences for the Global Environment Fund round 6 which has a focus out here on invasive alien species, all of which are anthropogenically introduced here on Pohnpei. Projects funded under GEF 6 are just getting launched here. Training of those working in biosecurity and agricultural extension could conceivably include using tools such as iNaturalist to assist in identifying species unknown to the biosecurity official or agricultural extension agent. If I am involved in the training, then I could be instructing officials on how to correctly mark those observations for identification.

Again, my thanks for the thoughtful and helpful responses!



Apparently European Rabbit was introduced to Great Britain by the Romans. I would still consider them introduced but I’m guessing the ecosystems have pretty much balanced out by now.
A similar question I have is whether something like Cattle Egret can be considered native in North America and other places they’ve spread. They crossed from Africa to South America, naturally as far as anyone knows, and then spread to North America within the past century.
As for wild vs cultivated, that has been discussed quite a bit here. I think it’s a lot more complicated for animals than plants but generally I think they need to breed after being introduced, and then the following generation can be considered “wild” (although there would need to be multiple generations to demonstrate an established population).

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That’s interesting - so there is no necessary relationship between wild/not wild and impact on natural communities. A 50-year-old conservation planting of european larch, scotch pine and norway spruce covering an acre (or a square-mile red pine plantation) would be considered cultivated, whereas a clump of our Chionodoxa that have self-seeded into the woods ~50’ from the original planting would be considered wild.



In terms of the wild or cultivated tab on inat this only relates to whether or not a human planted the plant or has the animal captive. It has no bearing on whether the organism is introduced. A native plant in a native plant garden gets marked as captive and an introduced plant that is spreading on its own does not.