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

Not at all. It’s absolutely the case that science should be used to determine where continental boundaries lie. And in pretty much all cases except for Europe/Asia they are.

Scientifically Europe and Asia are not separate continents, they are one continent, Eurasia, with Europe being a large peninsula stacking off the western end of it. The specific case of splitting Eurasia into Europe and Asia is a cultural/historical one, not a natural sciences one.

It’s a little bit like how some people insist that North America is everything north of Mexico (or sometimes including Mexico) and that Central America not part of North America. Sure, there is a cultural division, but North America extends south to the mountains on the border of Panama and Colombia, and that’s the scientifically accurate definition of North America.

1 Like

It looks like on iNaturalist North America includes Mexico, and also Greenland, so strictly scientific on that one.

Re: discussion over continents/zones, Places have also been created for at least some ecozones, like the Nearctic. Whether those or ordinary continent/country places should be used in Identify and Explore is probably a matter of preference. Creation of checklists would benefit from putting most emphasis on one vs the other to avoid needing to create duplicate lists, though.

Re: Europe and Asia vs Eurasia, most sources separate the two. Observers have to follow regulations and know when/if they can cross borders anyway, so there’s some practical reasons to use ordinary divisions sometimes and ecozones other times. At least currently it’s also often common practice for species checklists to be published for specific countries and continents. Both concepts are useful to keep in mind.

1 Like

Thank you for pointing that out. I looked up the subregions for the Nearctic and that’s really interesting too: https://gaftp.epa.gov/EPADataCommons/ORD/Ecoregions/cec_na/NA_LEVEL_I.pdf

I’m learning so much here.

iNaturalist North America should include everything from Panama north (which it does).

Technically speaking, iNaturalist Africa should not include Madagascar (as it’s not part of the continent, although it did used to be), but Madagascar should be included in the “Africa including surrounding islands” area.

As an aside, Madagascar appears to first have been settled by people from Southeast Asia, not from Africa, despite its proximity to Africa. The indigenous Malagasy related languages and people’s DNA, as well as crops, bear testament to this.

Australia and Papua New Guinea (as well as the easternmost part of Indonesia) should be part of the same continent, Sahul (also sometimes called Austronesia or ‘the Australian continent’), but not including New Zealand (which is the final remnant of an independent continent called Zealandia).

There are a lot of other similar issues like this that come up.

1 Like

Are you meaning just as a technical point or you want these to be how iNat places are defined? Although I don’t doubt that it may be debatable and there may be difficulty finding a single answer for how to define continents, I’m still under the impression that most sources consider Madagascar part of Africa, Indonesia part of Asia, and Australia and New Zealand part of Oceania (in terms of assigning them to major continents at least). I’m unsure if you were suggesting changing that classification. My only input is if that were under discussion I think a larger discussion would be necessary before making any changes to places, since I assume many people wouldn’t want to give up the ordinary familiar classification. The question of which continents to use also varies and depends on how many continents are defined to be included in a given classification. In my example I used the traditional classification which may include less continents than your classification.

I’m not making any suggestion for how iNat organizes things. I’m making the point that there’s what scientifically is considered a continent, and then there is the messy real-world issue of national boundaries, claimed territories, cultural and historical decisions that have perpetuated, etc.

iNat has to the bridge the gap between sciences and what the layperson is used to, and, this being a platform aimed at drawing the layperson in more than at drawing the specialists in (although they also participate), iNat makes the logical decision to go with what people are used to, even if it’s not 100% in line with what the science of the matter says.

We could propose that everything be broken down into ecoregions instead, which would make much more sense for a biodiversity platform, but the majority of users would not be familiar with them, and it would serve as a block to bringing in new users, so it would not be a good approach (would be good to have them included as an alternate place type search tool though).

3 Likes

Indonesia part of Asia

Actually, there is a great biogeographical divide in Indonesia with one side of the country being of laurasian origin, the other of gondwanan origin associated with completely diferent biocenoses .

The issue was not what should belong to which continent. Continents have already been defined in inaturalist (obviously by someone who had knowledge in biogeography) and are both fine and convenient.

The issue is that places belonging to Africa as defined on inaturalist are grafted to Europe! I would like that an authorized curator fix it so that no place is grafted to a parent to which it does not belong entirely (in the same way that polyphyletic groups are not authorized on inaturalist).

1 Like

I don’t know how English does it, here there’re two systems, with “материк” used for continent in geological sense and “континент” in more of political manner, so they’re used for different purposes, that means of course it’s Eurasia, but it’s also divided in 2 big regions and each divided in more smaller ones, idally we’d want not to use Asia as really it’s too diverse.

In English it’s one word, but the meaning is cryptically contextual. You have no real way of knowing which meaning the person means without further discussion, and even then there is often a great deal of disagreement.

1 Like

i think only staff can change “standard” places.

it may be worth stepping back a bit to look a more carefully at this cascading issue. can you provide examples of taxa where establishment means were cascaded improperly? from my perspective, it seems like this should be a relatively uncommon occurrence, since i think it would take a particular set of conditions and steps to create such a case.

for example, Metrosideros polymorpha is endemic to Hawaii, one of the 50 states of the United States. Hawaii is technically in Oceania according to the boundaries used by iNat, but the parent of the United States according to the place setup is North America. so M. polymorpha should exist in the Hawaii, US, and Oceania checklists, but it should not exist in the North America checklist. right now, the plant is listed as endemic in both Hawaii and the US, but it is undefined in Oceania. i suppose someone could define it as endemic to Oceania if they really wanted to, but i sort of doubt anyone would ever actually do something like that, since it’s unnecessary.

now suppose someone observed an introduced patch in Veracruz, MX. then that would cause the taxon to be added to Veracruz, Mexico, and North America checklists. at that point, i think a curator could define the taxon as introduced in North America and have that cascade to Mexico and Veracruz. since the taxon is already defined as endemic in the US, the introduced cascade would not affect the US, if my understanding of the process is correct. but if the taxon had not already been defined as endemic in the US, then the introduced cascade would have set the taxon as introduced in the US as well.

when i look at that hypothetical cascade, i sort of think it it would have been the responsibility of the curator who defined the taxon as introduced in North America to have made sure that the US was properly set to endemic first before cascading at the continent level.

now, if the taxon had not been set up as endemic in Hawaii either, then i think what you’re saying is that cascading introduced from North America would have set Hawaii to introduced as well (since Hawaii’s parent is the US and the US’s parent is North America). maybe this would be a little unexpected, but i sort of think that a curator probably shouldn’t have started the process by cascading from North America. it seems like you should define the native area at a more detailed level before applying a very broad (exception=introduced) continent-level establishment means.

suppose that instead of finding the taxon in Mexico, you found it on Tuvalu and determined that it was native there, too. also suppose that the taxon was not already defined as endemic anywhere. so then i suppose in this case you might be tempted to start at Oceania and try to cascade native status down to both Tuvalu and Hawaii, except it wouldn’t cascade to Hawaii because Hawaii’s parent is the US. i suppose the way i would look at it in this case is that it’s inconvenient that i wouldn’t be able to cascade to Hawaii, but i could still go in and set the appropriate status for Hawaii separately.

(i’m not sure all of the above is actually the correct process, since i’ve never actually done it before… feel free to correct me if any of the above is incorrect.)

If you are talking about a “forced” cascade using the curator tool, I don’t think endemic status in a child place blocks it. I think it literally replaces every listed taxon entry in every place grafted to the parent place with Introduced status. And I’m pretty sure Hawaii is grafted to North America via the United States.

If you are talking about the special “passive” cascade that happens with Introduced status, it will replace any “unknown” listed taxon entries with Introduced, and otherwise will force display of Introduced status in any spatially overlapping location.

…if I understand it correctly.

1 Like

pisum Yes I meant staff by “authorized curator”.

Actually, there are dozens and dozens of examples in Europe: Stellagama stellio is introduced in Europe but probably not in the Anatolian islands belonging to Greece. Setting it as introduced in Europe would shift its status for all the geek islands where it should be “unknown”. Then its status would have to be changed manually for each island and each user-created place within these islands. Now imagine there are dozens of Anatolian species introduced into Europe and dozens of Anatolian islands and islets belonging to Greece.

All these species are introduced in Europe but not in the North-African Spanish territories:

Yet they appear as introduced there and every new addition of a North-African species which has been introduced into Europe will appear introduced there.

i don’t think this statement is exactly true. in the examples you listed, even though not all of these species actually have observations in the N African Spanish territories, they all exist on the checklist(s) for Spain or both Ceuta y Melillia and Spain, and the establishment means for these have been set to Introduced. so i think the fact that these species show up as Introduced is because that’s how they are set up for Spain and/or Ceuta y Melilla.

it’s possible that these Introduced setups for Spain and/or Ceuta y Melilla cascaded from the setup for Europe (i think jdmore calls this a “forced” cascade), but it’s not the Introduced setups for Europe themselves that are causing these taxa to show up as Introduced in Ceuta y Melilla.

just to illustrate what i mean here, Spiraea douglasii is set up as Introduced in Europe, but it has no explicit setup for Spain or Ceuta y Melilla. when i add a dummy observation for Spiraea douglasii in Ceuta, there is no Introduced indicator that shows up on the observation:

on the other hand, if i create an observation in Spain, it shows up as introduced (because the observation is in Europe):

so from what i can tell, it doesn’t even seem to be a continent-association problem that we’re dealing here. in the case of Ceuta y Melilla, it’s the fact that Ceuta y Melilla tied to Spain. Unless Ceuta y Melilla has establishment means set up differently than for Spain, it’s going to inherit from Spain.

whether or not Ceuta y Melilla should be tied to Spain, i think, is something that should be driven by political and social judgments, not whether or not it’s inconvenient for cascading of establishment means. i’m not familiar enough with Spanish affairs that i feel qualified to say how that particular association should be made or not, but in the case of North America > United States > Hawaii, i can say for sure that i would not consider carving out Hawaii from the United States. instead, i think the right answer – at least for Hawaii – is that it gets its own explicit establishment means record if it needs to differ from the United States establishment means record.

1 Like

No, I meant “every new addition [in the check-list] of a species which has been introduced into Europe will appear introduced there”.

Had Spiraea douglasii been listed in the checklist for Ceuta y Melilla (with unknown status) its status would have switched to introduced. As explained by @jdmore the diplay on individual observation is based on overlapping location and therefore will only happen once the species is listed on the check list.

it’s possible that these Introduced setups for Spain and/or Ceuta y Melilla cascaded from the setup for Europe (i think jdmore calls this a “forced” cascade)

Yes! This is exactly my problem the status set up for Europe cascade down to places which do not belong to Europe and should not be grafted to Europe via Spain (there this is just normal cascading not forced).

as i noted before, the problem you’re noting can be triggered by a continent-level establishment means setup, but it does not require a continent-level setup, nor does it require any of your places to even be tied to continents. it’s not directly related to continents. instead the problem is related to any parent-child place setup and how establishment means setups cascade from parent to child.

so changing how things are tied to continents may indirectly help in some cases, but won’t address the whole problem because it’s not addressing the actual problem.

here’s an example to show you what i mean:

  • first, i set up a parent place, which has no parent of its own. its coordinates put it in the USA.
  • then in the parent place, i added 2 species into its checklist and defined different establishment means for each:
    • Common Chameleon (introduced)
    • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (native)
  • next, i set up a child place, which has the parent place above as its parent place. the child place is located in the middle of China, on the opposite side of the world.
  • then in the child place, i added the same 2 species from the parent into its checklist, but i did not explicitly define establishment means. even though i did not define the establishment means myself, the introduced establishment means did get inherited automatically from the parent. (the native establishment means did not.) so we end up with:
    • Common Chameleon (introduced)
    • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (unknown)

in my above example, neither of the places is tied directly to a continent, but the cascading problem still exists. you have to address the problem by tackling how establishment means cascading works or the process by which it is executed, not by changing whether or not places are tied to continents.

1 Like

I understand your point but, why do you want to incriminate the cascading? The only reason to have child places and parent places is for cascading which is extremely useful to fill child places with relevant status. For me, the cascading process as it is now, is perfectly logical.

In the example, you cited the only issue in my opinion is that you graft a child to a place that does not contain it. This is my only issue: places grafted to a continent (or other places) that does not contain them entirely. As simple as that.

i think the first part of this is just wrong. establishment means cascading may leverage the parent-child place relationships, but it’s hardly the only reason to define these relationships. i think the most important reason is just to allow folks to define relationships between places. for example, it’s useful to know that Tamaulipas is part of Mexico, and that Mexico is part of North America. (at the top of the place page, you can see the chain of ancestors for any given place and explore up the chain, if you like.) it’s also useful to be able to group places by a parent. for example, i can use the iNat API to easily get a collection of North American countries: https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNat_countries.html?parent_place_id=97394.

originally, i thought this was your issue based on your initial vague descriptions, but i think your actual issue more generally is that political boundaries don’t match taxon ranges neatly. you could say that North African Spanish territories are in Africa, which is a totally different continent than the main part of Spain. but there is nothing inherent about going from one continent to another that necessarily precludes taxa from having the same establishment means on both continents. instead, continents tend to be relatively large areas, and to the extent that you have different establishment means on different continents is more of a function of large areas / distances, not (continent) boundaries.

for example, the American bullfrog is considered native in the United States, but only on the eastern half of the country. if you see a bullfrog on the West Coast, that’s likely to be introduced. at a country (USA) and continent (N America) level, the establishment means is set up as native. so that won’t automatically cascade down to descendant places. however, in Mexico, the establishment means is set up as introduced at a country level, and so it will (and has) cascaded down to all the child states as introduced, even though the native range of the bullfrog extends through the eastern part of Mexico that includes states like Tamaulipas.

in my mind, the bullfrog+Tamaulipas=introduced establishment means is fundamentally no different from the chameleon+Cueta=introduced issue. but to address the situation, it makes no sense to carve Tamaulipas from Mexico, nor to attach it to some other parent. also, it happens that for the bullfrog, Tamaulipas and Baja California (on the other side of Mexico) should probably have different establishment means, but then for other taxa like the Western honeybee, it’s going to be introduced throughout Mexico. so even if you wanted control cascading by modifying place relationships, there’s no single relationship setup that applies across all taxa.

so in the end, if you consider this kind of thing a problem, the solution for that problem is not found in place relationship setups. the right way to address this is to look at the establishment means setup processes (both how things are coded and how people execute).

1 Like

All your explaination is completely unrelated to my issue: If L. catesbeianus is native to any part of Mexico then its status for Mexico should be native. If someone set it as introduced in Mexico he was wrong.

1 Like

i don’t disagree with setting native for Mexico bullfrogs, but my point is why can’t you apply that same solution to Spain chameleons? where do you draw the line to say that a part of a country is no longer a part of a country? and who gets to decide that?

another hypothetical example along these lines… there are lots of organisms endemic to Hawaii. so by extension, they would be endemic to the USA. but they would be introduced to North America. based on how you want to treat places like Greece, i think you would propose removing North America as USA’s parent to prevent cascading. and, sure, that might prevent cascading for these North America > USA > Hawaii examples. but then the the large number of things that you would actually want to cascade from North America to USA would no longer function just to prevent that relatively small number improper cascades to Hawaii.

2 Likes