Countries falling into two continents should not be grafted to any continent

Hello thanks to jdmore I came across this major issue:

Countries falling into two continents (as defined by intaturalist continent boundaries) should not be grafted to any continent. It creates major inconsistencies in the checklists and species status.

These countries should be left ungrafted as they do not belong to a single continent:

For Spanish and Portuguese territories in Africa:

They should be grafted directly to Africa as this is the case for Mayotte which is a French departement:

1 Like

can you clarify exactly what the problem is? (please provide at least one example of “major inconsistencies”.)

2 Likes

I do not think that it affects listing species (for instance listing African species into Europe).
However, it affects the establishment means: if a species is set to “introduced” in Europe it will also be set to “introduced” in the Spanish territory in Africa where it might be native.

There you can see that the establishment means would be correct for mainland Spain or Europe but largely incorrect for Spanish territories in North Africa : https://www.inaturalist.org/places/ceuta-y-melilla#/places/ceuta-y-melilla=&establishment_means=introduced

Many species are introduced in Europe but native in Spanish and Portuguese territories in Africa. This has been properly set for countries like France or UK where territories in other continents are directly grafted to the appropriate continent.

2 Likes

ok. so the issue is that establishment means cascade in unexpected ways when a descendant place doesn’t fall geographically entirely within its designated parent place.

i don’t think changing the way parent places are defined is necessarily the best solution to this problem. it’s probably better to directly address how the establishment means cascading works in the first place.

related discussions:

Many of these (outside of iNat and at the entire-country scale) are typically defined as being in one continent, although I see how this could cause a problem for iNat. In working on bee checklists, I found it useful to first consider the continent a country like a small island was located in, vs. it can be misleading (geographically) to put too much focus on what larger country founded or colonized smaller countries.

ok. so the issue is that establishment means cascade in unexpected ways when a descendant place doesn’t fall geographically entirely within its designated parent place.

On the contrary, the way the label “establishment means” cascade down is entirely logical: e.g. if a species establishment mean is “introduced” in Europe it should be introduced in all the places included in Europe.

What is illogical is to graft a place to a parent place to which it does not belong entirely (or even does not belong at all cf. ceuta y melilla).
This is just wrong: if you take for instance Indonesia standing on both sides of the Wallacea neither placing it as a child of Asia nor as a child of Oceania makes any sense.

i don’t think changing the way parent places are defined is necessarily the best solution to this problem.

The solution is simply to graft differently some regions or countries as it has been made for many other territories. For instance, the French Southern Territories are not grafted to any continent

1 Like

But why not delete status from Europe and only add it to child places?

Because it represents infinitely more work than simply grafting this territory to Africa to obtain a coherent system.

2 Likes

Does that mean that if something is introduced anywhere on ‘Earth’ it must be introduced in all places included in ‘Earth’, and therefore all species that have been introduced anywhere are introduced everywhere?

1 Like

If it’s native to one part of the region, it can’t be marked as introduced for the whole region, thus if it’s set as introduced for the region and presented anywhere within it it’s introduced there.

2 Likes

Shouldn’t Spain and Portugal also be in your list of countries not to graft?

There will always be a set of places that belong physically to one continent, but politically to a country located on a different continent.

No matter how we decide to graft or “parent” such places, it will always mean that one class of parent place (either Continent or Country) will be unavailable as a tool with which to manage Establishment Means in those subordinate places.

I don’t know that it matters much which way it goes. For some users, Madeira => Portugal will be the expectation, and for others Madeira => Africa seems more natural. We just have to be aware of which way it is set up when managing Establishment Means.

2 Likes

Shouldn’t Spain and Portugal also be in your list of countries not to graft?
For some users, Madeira => Portugal will be the expectation, and for others Madeira => Africa seems more natural.

For Spain and Portugal, the simple solution is to graft their overseas territories to Africa, if this is done the issue should be solved. These territories are completely different entities with different biogeographical contexts. I personally don’t expect to set a status for Ceuta, Melila, Tenerife nor for any African territory when I set it for a species in Spain.

Again for France, this is exactly what has been done, we just need to follow this example for the above-mentioned places :

French territories
Grafted to Africa:
https://www.inaturalist.org/places/reunion
https://www.inaturalist.org/places/mayotte
Grafted to Oceania:
https://www.inaturalist.org/places/french-polynesia
Grafted to South America:
https://www.inaturalist.org/places/french-guiana
Ungrafted:
https://www.inaturalist.org/places/french-southern-territories

1 Like

From a purely biological/geological perspective Europe and Asia should not be treated as separate continents as the historical division is a culturally defined one with shifting borders, not one based on biogeography or geology.

Europe and Asia should be lumped together into Eurasia.

However, we have cultural issues to take into account, so we are stuck with some things that don’t make a lot of sense.

2 Likes

Just seeking clarification–Are you saying that it isn’t possible for science to determine the boundaries of continents, and that they are just either political or cultural designations?

It is certainly possible. But biology and geology (tectonic plates) will still yield different delineations, and people like their cultural ideas of what continents are too.

3 Likes

Ural mountains (as part of border) are a biogeographical barrier for many taxa and it divides two plains and quite different floras and faunas, so it’s not completely unreasonable, question is how useful it is for iNaturalist, if you want to check actual European taxa then searching for Eurasia would be far too wide, so we need Europe to stay to make life much easier.

3 Likes

I don’t quite understand why, if it’s possible to use science, iNaturalist would choose to have culture overide it. (Obviously, I have never thought deeply about continents. I just think of the big globes in museums with all the pieces slamming together into continents, and assumed there was scientific consensus on them.)

1 Like

Marina’s example of the Ural Mountains is one where biology and geology reasonably coincide. But think about, for example, the San Andreas Fault separating the Pacific and North American plates. Biology is continuous over much of that boundary except maybe in the Transverse Ranges of California.

The cultural concept of a continent tends to be a large and mostly contiguous land mass surrounded by ocean. If we were to radically depart from that, we would probably have to call them something different than continents. In any case, I highly doubt that iNaturalist will modify their Continent boundaries at this point, because of the huge system reindexing load that would cause.

2 Likes

Thank you, @earthknight, @jdmore, and @marina_gorbunova for enlightening me about continents.

The Urals are the best case for a natural biogeographical division, but if you look at the history of where the division has been, and the specifics of where it is now, it’s clear that that has never really been an important factor.