How strict should atlases be?


I read the documentation page for atlases (, and it gives great guidance for dealing with vagrants and non-established observations, but what about the opposite? What about a species that is reported from every state in the eastern U.S. except for West Virginia? Should we leave West Virginia out of the atlas, or just assume that the species exists in West Virginia but no one has reported it (since no one ever reports anything from West Virginia)? I’m mainly referring to species that don’t have a great observation density (think bugs, not birds) and don’t otherwise have a range defined in the literature. Any opinions?



In my view, places shouldn’t be added to atlases for which there is no evidence that the organism occurs there. When you add it to the atlas, it adds it to a checklist and then starts creating a digital trail of evidence of occurrence based on nothing.



Yeah if people observe it there we will just add it to the atlas and know it’s been found in a new place!



What about cases where there is little observation data, but the literature says something like “Guatemala to Panama”? Should we only include countries for which we can find actual specific occurrences (in GBIF, BOLD, etc.) or should we just add all the countries between Guatemala and Panama?



How would you know whether or not to include El Salvador? I personally probably wouldn’t even bother making an atlas for that species if that’s the only data we have for it.

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Yeah at the current time all it would do is alert people who looked at the atlases that it was found “out of range”, right? Which isn’t a bad thing.



Thanks for all the feedback. I’ve added a new “Deciding which places to include in your atlas” section to the atlases page. Feel free to tweak it further! Also, I wanted to mention that that page is currently rather hard to find. It would be nice if it were linked from the Curator Guide.

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