Authorities and guidelines for determining establishment means on iNaturalist

I think I agree with and support what @jdmore is suggesting here.

Also, what authorities does iNaturalist use for determining native vs. introduced status? Are there any guidelines of how to determine this?

I have noticed that there can be significant disagreement about this stuff. It is not something I would want to leave to being edited by individual users, because talking to the average gardener, they have a lot of misconceptions about what is native and introduced in which regions. For example, just today I heard someone say Virginia creeper was an invasive species in PA, and I frequently hear people say that introduced plants are “native”. I feel like allowing or encouraging users to edit this stuff directly could be a huge can of worms if there were not some sort of fairly strict guidelines that were clearly spelled out, and some sort of checks about it.

For plants, I trust the data provided by BONAP more than the USDA. I have not found a source more extensive or accurate than BONAP, but I recognize that it also has its limitations. For plants in PA, I also use the Plants of Pennsylvania book by Rhoads and Block which also has more accurate information about this stuff.

To respond to @pisum, here is the BONAP map on sweetgum, and it shows it native everywhere including through Houston, which is at the border of its range, and introduced (they call it “adventive” which I think is the category they use across the board for things native to the continent but not the local area) only on the West Coast and one county in NE Massachussets.

I find it odd that iNaturalist would flag sweetgum as non-native in Houston, but it seems to list records in California as native when it is clearly introduced there.

I also am curious about how iNaturalist defines or draws cutoffs about something being introduced. And does it have (or are there any plans for it to have) more categories than just introduced and native, sort of the way BONAP has “adventive”? One thing I don’t like about BONAP is that they don’t distinguish things like…in that sweetgum exmaple, they mark the county in NE Massachussets “adventive” but also mark the introductions of that species to the west coast, by the same category. Ecologically, it seems different, because it’s separated by a massive geographic aree and is a totally distinct ecoregions, vs. being a few counties displaced from native population, in a more-or-less similar ecoregion.

A heads up that I split this off to its own topic, since @jdmore’s feature request was about adding technical tools for making curating easier, rather than a general discussion about nativity and site policies. Feel free to adjust the title of your topic.

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These forums seem to have stricter guidelines about staying on-topic than I am used to. I’ve been on this forum less than two days and have seen one thread locked, numerous ones split, and I and others are getting heavily chastised by moderators for this reason.

I am finding it very challenging to stay on topic and I am not used to moderation carried out in this way.

I find it difficult to adjust my way of thinking to this new system, because I tend to be a divergent thinker whose mind goes in many different directions at once, and who thrives on drawing connections between different topics, but I am willing to try.

A question about how to handle this…when I see a post and I want to reply to it but the reply is off-topic to the original thread…is it appropriate for me to start a new thread, or search for an existing thread, and then make a brief reply and link to the other thread? Or is there some other, better way to handle it?

“Keep it Tidy” is a one of the forum guidelines which you can read more about here.

This sounds appropriate to me. There is an option to “Reply as a linked topic”. Screenshot:

If you have other forum feedback, feel free to raise it in the Forum Feedback category or in a private message directly to the moderation team by messaging @moderators. I’ve been the primary moderator for your posts, and certainly haven’t intended to come across as “chastising” anyone, but I’m happy to receive feedback for how I can improve too.

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yes, this was what i was trying to fix, except that the UI doesn’t allow me to do it effectively / efficiently


I think the best you can do as there will never be an answer about how to deal with different sources giving different data on native/introduced, present/not present etc is that when you make a change, add a citation and link in the comments section that is there.

I try to do this whenever i add a species to a checklist etc, so at least the information can be traced back.


Certainly here in Australia neither of those sources are much good, and I can’t imagine they’d be much use to anyone outside of the USA.

I guess part of the problem is that there are many taxa for which their establishment status is unclear, and different authors disagree. Here in Tasmania we even have a few taxa that are native in part of the State and exotic and invasive in other parts. Kunzea ambigua and Acacia retinodes are good examples.

I’m also very curious about this? Do we use an external ‘expert’ or is it up to curators to use their discretion?

Updating these fields is not restricted to curators, all site users may do it. Which makes defining official sources even harder as most users wont be aware of any such decision.

Here is a new suggestion for providing a way to deal with this issue:

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