I think it would be quite logical and nice to be able to filter observations on iNat based on biogeographic realms - however the current situation in this regard is not very good. I understand that people coming from different backgrounds can have different ideas on where the boundaries are, so for complete satisfaction, more options would be needed (for example the status of the Arabian peninsula is highly debated), but at this moment, some realms have NO regions defined on iNat and some have questionable boundaries.
- Nearctic: OK
- Afrotropics: OK
- Neotropic: missing - completely nonsensical small region under the name
- Paleartic (full): missing
– Western Palearctic exists, but under an unusual definition that includes central Asia but excludes Iceland
– Eastern Palearctic: missing
- Indomalayan: missing
- Australasian, Oceanian: missing - there is “Oceania - continent” that covers the two (without Wallacea, but that’s a matter of opinion) but nothing for the two individual regions.
Moreover all the existing regions cover mainly land - sometimes they go out into the oceans to grab some islands, but most of the oceans are kept outside, which messes up pelagic and marine records.
The problem is that for a regular user it’s not possible to define new regions to fill the gaps as “places” are limited by roughly the size of Texas.
I concur, especially for marine realms since their biogeography does not match with the terrestrial one at all. Even limiting to the major oceans would be handy, since in some places that are at the interface it’s difficult to get lists that reflect marine biogeography. e.g. if you’re looking for marine fishes of the Pacific of Panama, or the Indian Ocean faunas of Thailand.
Also, some well-delimited sea regions would be useful, such as the Mediterranean Sea. It is shared by three “continents” and two terrestrial biogeographic regions, and if you use “Mediterranean” it gives you the terrestrial climatic area, that includes parts of the Atlantic Ocean and Black Sea.
I might recommend (as a stop-gap solution) creating a project that contains all of the countries/regions included in that realm as requirements.
The problem with this is that the limits of the biogeographical realms are not well-defined and do not really follow political boundaries.
Discussion didn’t get much traction but you might be interested in the links here https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/iucn-global-ecosystem-typology/20843
There’s been some discussion of this, and adding more marine places is under review, but apparently having these large places creates an infrastructure burden - perhaps @carrieseltzer can update on any discussions that have taken place since the other thread?
On the theoretical part, I would like to point out two things:
There are no biogeographic (or climatic) borders that are objectively a clear line on the ground, like the borders of states. The living world is a continuum in which its parts are always connected by transitions. Clear lines on biogeographic maps are a simplification made for clarity. Objectively, there is no line with strictly one biogeographic area on one side and another on the other. Just as there is no place to say that the right side is temperate, and the left side is subtropical.
The evolution and dispersal of different groups of organisms occurred somewhat separately. Therefore, there are many concepts of the biogeographic division of the Earth and ideas about the borders between areas. Therefore, there is, for example, no “Paleartic realm” as a single generally accepted concept. And if in its western part the ideas about its southern boundary are at least similar among different biologists, the southeastern boundary remains very debatable. Because of this, even scientific catalogs of the Palaearctic actually use political boundaries of states. At least, I know of no other examples.
On the practical point, I’m not sure that these theoretical concepts are really important for citizen science and amateur naturalists. Academic researchers of biogeography, meanwhile, may well use open iNaturalist data for their concepts.
So while I too would be comfortable in some cases seeing observations within Palaearctic or Nearctic limits, I don’t think that trying to set up such locations here would certainly be difficult and unlikely to be productive.
I would like the Caribbean to be a place, not just ‘Latinamerica and the Caribbean’.
Yes I would love a way to search for just the Atlantic Ocean or the whole Caribbean, because now I have to make custom bounding boxes to even try and grab an area and I can’t usually get the whole thing with a polygon without biting off a piece of the east Pacific of east Atlantic
Remember, too, that these biogeographic realms are based on zoogeography. Floristic realms have different boundaries, that is, Cape is separate from Afrotropical and California is separate from the rest of North America.
You are talking about larger areas, but for native bees in the US, probably Canada too, we get recommendations from the CV for eastern bees all the time up in my corner of the Pacific NW. The east has been well documented and many western bees are still not included even in Discover Life. Being able to eliminate the CV’s over-reach or over-generalizations would be very useful in this particular case.
Yes, this is a good topic. As with everything one would need to ask what the Objectives for doing it are. I am for doing it but really only use the ecoregions as a system for biologists to conserve the biodiversity within the ecoregion. There are so many overlapping biotic and abiotic entities that creating ecoregions would not be wholly for biological sake but for a systematic way to approach and conserve biodiversity. We really need strong conservation entities within each ecoregion and really, many conservation entities within each ecoregion if we do not want to lose our biodiversity to the invasives and lack of fire management. The ecoregions should also include marine ecosystems. A map of the earth would need to be debated and created and be made to be able to be changed/improved every ten years (in a big ol biologists convention)!!!
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