Clarification wanted - what list does iNat use for threatened status in observation searches?

Was wondering if you can confirm what list you are using to determine the ‘threatened’ species listings on iNat?

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There are several – Natureserv (I think I’ve got that right), the IUCN Red List, USFWS Endangered Species List for US species all show up on the Black-footed Ferret page, for instance. I believe I’ve seen various state or province lists cited as well. (If it seems that I’m showing a N. American bias, it’s because I live in the US, and those are the species I look at a lot.)


Welcome to the forum!

I’m based in Australia and the project i hosted is currently listing that it’s sighted more than 95 threatened species - but only 24 are actually listed under our EPBC act here and many are not even listed on the IUCN red list??
I’ve cross-checked the listings and there are significant errors in the algorithm that is filtering the observations from what I can tell- species like domestic dogs sightings are getting pulled through and others that are not listed on IUCN. Would be good to know what listings you use for your algorithm so i can try and make sense of the data.

Link to the observations with filters applied here:

The dog (Canis familiaris) observation appears to be this dingo (Canis familiaris dingo) observation

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You can check the Status tab on each taxon page for more details. As an example, iNat considers koalas threatened because they are listed as Vulnerable by IUCN.

Ok - I can see the actual observation now. But why is it listed under the ‘Domestic dog’ species, with a different picture on the filter search results??

I can see that for species like the koala that are listed under the EPBC Act and/or the IUCN Red list - but 95 species being included in the ‘threatened’ species filters that are not listed on either of these sources - and many don’t have a source?. It appears to be pulling non-threatened or listed species and including them in the filter for threatened species sightings in the project…

A good example of what i’m talking about is this - the Acacia crassicarpa is shown as listed as Vulnerable under the IUCN RedList - however a search on the IUCN list shows that the species is actually of ‘Least Concern’. -

So even the listings that are pulling from the IUCN RedList are not pulling through correct information?

Also I cannot see that dingo’s are listed under the IUCN Red List or the EPBC Act. So what list resulted in this observation being included??

IUCN statuses are only pulled in periodically. I’m not sure when the last time A. crassicarpa had its status updated on iNat, but the previous assessment had it listed as Vulnerable.


You might be able to request a bulk status refresh from staff, but for sure you can flag individual taxa in situations like this.

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IUCN and iNat no longer recognize the dingo under Canis lupus, instead it’s now considered a subspecies of the domestic dog. IUCN doesn’t publish assessments of domestic species, so they no longer have an assessment up for the dingo. However, iNat has maintained the status it had when IUCN assessed it under C. lupus dingo.

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Ok thanks for providing that clarity around the Dingo listing and data. iNat is using older listing data to determine the ‘VU’ listing (to be clear i’m not disputing this method, just ensuring I understand its application to my search results from the project).

How would I request iNat Staff do a bulk status refresh to ensure the IUCN listings are updated?

I can’t guarantee anything, but I suspect @loarie would be the one to ask about a bulk import.

If you’re only finding a handful (and so far you’ve posted one example), then I would suggest flagging individual taxa because it will be faster/easier for the problem to get fixed.

Out of the 95 species filtered using the ‘threatened’ species filter I’ve found 19 that are not listed as threatened under the EPBC listings or the IUCN Red List. I have an excel spreadsheet with data i’m happy to share with @loarie if this will be helpful in showing the potential scale of this type of issue?

This note is referring to the original message and an early comment. The question I want to answer is: “What makes a species threatened?” The answer is complex and simple at the same time. There’s a similar question I will ask and answer (I didn’t create these): “How can you tell when a species is named correctly?” The answer? “The correct name is the name given for the species by a competent biologist.” My point? The concept of “threatened” is a human one, is often subjective, and is determined by a competent authority. We can try to make such decisions objective but that is nearly impossible.

I’ll give you a real life example. Echinacea is an endangered species known from the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina (some detials below). I worked there in 1994 and was informed of the Burma Road site. I found a second much larger population about five miles away at the Road B-9 site. Data was submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). I considered the two sites completely separate. It is possible the Burma Road site consists of plants persisting after cultivation but we have no proof of that.

The USFWS personnel considered the new population a “colony” of the Burma Road site and not a new population. The two locations were five miles apart and so different, I questioned thsi decision. I was told, “Well, we can’t call it a new population because if we get too many populations we would have to consider downlisting the species from endangered to threatened.” That quotation is only paraphrased slightly and only because my memory of the discussion is not perfect. My point? It was simple. Listing decisions are typically made by governmental or intergovernmental agencies. The opinions of biologists are often considered. But ultimately, they are subjective decisions. For example, in the USA threatened and endangered animals may be the same species, but on one side of the Mississippi River or the other; individuals on one site might be endangered and those on the other not listed. However, this is not done for plants, which is of course a subjective human decision that has nothing to do with biology and everything with what society is willing to allow. states, “The reported historical range of the smooth purple cone-flower included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas. The species now is known to survive only in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. Of the seven populations known from South Carolina, two are located on the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (SRS), one on Burma Road and the other in a power line right-of-way along Road B-9.”


I do not find these. Where do I find them? <<Natureserv, IUCN Red List, USFWS Endangered Species List … show up on the Black-footed Ferret page>> ?

Hi Bill, welcome to the iNat Forum. To find this info, check out the Status tab.

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They stopped doing bulk updates about a year ago. I believe, although I may have this wrong, that the site only bulk updates mammals now.

For example none of the 2019 assessment changes on the IUCN list were implemented. I guess bulk updates are too taxing on the database.

Changes need to be made manually 1 at a time by curators.Any one want to volunteer to manually review the 4400 assessments in Q1 2020,or the almost 20,000 made in 2019?

And then you run into the unresolved question about when curators should obscure something even if listed which does not have a systematic framework or consistent application.

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