Well, I suppose if there were no answers to this question, we could just obscure every observation on iNat to 22x22 km. And for highly mobile animals, that might not be a huge issue. But for plants and other less-mobile organisms, exact locations make the data much more valuable scientifically, and the vast majority of such organisms (with notable exceptions which we do obscure) are not going to be the target of collectors or trappers. A couple of uses off the top of my head:
Species distribution modeling (computer prediction of where species are likely to occur but haven’t yet been documented, under both current and future climate scenarios). As you note, many areas of the world (including my entire state) have highly variable topography and ecology over distances much shorter than 22 km. Data more fuzzy than a few 10s of meters would be pretty useless for this purpose.
For rare species that are not targets for collection or harassment, precise coordinates of new locations help land managers, conservationists, and scientists quickly identify the specific parcels of land that need to be prioritized for further study and conservation. It’s probably different in smaller states, but in Nevada we have much more area to monitor than professionals paid to cover it all. So the contributors to iNat have been a huge help in identifying new locations for some of our species of conservation concern so that we can start monitoring them, and also in monitoring the status of previously known locations.
[EDIT: I should add, it is entirely the decision of each observer on iNat whether to obscure any or all of their observations, and there are many valid reasons for making that choice. All I am addressing here is that, where it is possible and prudent not to obscure, there is greater scientific and conservation value in the resulting data.]
is relevant here, because government authorities can’t protect a rare species in places where they are not aware that it has been found. So while iNat can’t remediate poor bureaucratic processes of governments, it can (and has done in my state, at least) be a source of valuable additional information for good processes to act upon.
- I know @charlie has been using precise location data of iNat observations for his work, in case he cares to elaborate further here…
Could most of these studies have still been accomplished via “standard professional methods”? Probably not as quickly, cheaply, or completely in most cases, and in some cases possibly not at all if iNat data provided the primary opportunity for initiating the study.