Implement Standard Marine Places for the world's oceans

It would be really useful to be able to summarise and filter marine observations by standard Places as we can for terrestrial areas. A few marine Places exist, but they are missing for large parts of the world.

For example, if I want to look at marine fishes off the coast of Brazil, there doesn’t seem to be a good way to do so. I can use “Brazil” and it picks up some from along the coast, but likely misses others taken a little way offshore.

This has been raised before in the Google Group here and here and does seem to have been proposed but not yet fully implemented - with the attached map as the template.

@deboas – is offshore Brazil just an example or is it an actual place that you’re wanting to use? i’m not super familiar with offshore stuff, but it looks like shapefiles are readily available (ex. http://www.marineregions.org/downloads.php). so i don’t think it would too difficult to create a few places for now, if there is a need.

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Yes, please. I slightly changed the title of the feature request, because these marine places should be “standard” iNat places (vs. “community-curated”) so that they get incorporated into features like range maps on taxon pages/atlases.

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Thank you cassi! Yes, they should be standard places.

It is an example, but one I would use. The problem with people creating large places ad-hoc is that it uses up a lot of indexing resources, and there are also size limits to the places that users can create. There are already various large marine places that have been created, but it would be much better to have a set of standard places as cassi has said. Perhaps some of the community places can even be converted to standard places as part of this request.

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Is there any standard or process for what can be a standard place and how to request them? Just like this I guess?
For example personally I would appreciate places for Central American, the Caribbean, and all the global ecozones (only some of them exist now I’m pretty sure) but I don’t have the ability or GIS knowledge to create those and I don’t know if they’re “good enough”.
Sorry if this is too off-topic…

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Other than requesting through this forum, I’m not aware of any other process.

Hopefully one of the iNat team will comment on this thread and we can see if it’s worthwhile to spin off another feature request for ecozones. There is a good set of WWF ecoregions globally (both terrestrial and marine) - would those meet your needs? What standard places would you like to see in Central America and the Caribbean that are missing?

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I was thinking more like Neotropic region, Indomalaya region, etc. I know they’re huge so there’s more reluctance but it seems strange to me that there’s places for the Nearctic, Palearctic, and Afrotropic zones but not the others.
And I’m looking for places for Central America and the Caribbean as a whole. There are places for them but they’re all just single points. I’ve emailed the staff before about it (I wanted to make a collection project that included those areas) and they suggested just listing all the countries in that area. For my purposes that didn’t feel worth it (although that may indicate those places aren’t worth it…).
I don’t really need these places, I just think they would be helpful for the sort of searches I enjoy doing for exploring observations and identifying (and they’re also places I figure other people might use if they existed).

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Got you. Yes, those would make a lot of sense.

Of course! Sorry to be slow to understand.

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As someone who primarily identifies tropical Indo-Pacific marinelife on here, I can confirm that it is an enormous pain in the a** to do so. I typically use the map feature and select a rectangle that more or less encompasses the entire region while excluding the subtropical and temperate portions that I’m not interested in… but it’s impossible to do this in one fell swoop… so then I end up needing to do separate searches in areas that didn’t fit in the rectangle (looking at you, northern Red Sea, parts of South Africa and Japan). This is such an important and cohesive ecological region… it would be great to easily search observations from it in its entirety. Same with the tropical West Atlantic… try drawing a rectangle around that without including the Eastern Pacific.

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Suggestions for tropical marine ecoregions:

Indo-Pacific
Indo-Australian Archipelago
West Pacific
Central Pacific
West-Central Pacific
Polynesia
Melanesia
Micronesia
Indian Ocean
Western Indian Ocean
Red Sea
Coral Triangle
subtropical South Pacific
subtropical North Pacific (i.e. Japan)
Eastern Pacific Ocean
West Atlantic
East Atlantic

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Thanks Joe, that’s a useful list. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed in the near future.

It’s possible there are challenges with creating such large standard places, in which case that would be useful to know from the iNat team so that we can see if there are workarounds.

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This has been a recognized “internal” feature request for several years, so, a courtesy ping to @loarie that this topic exists, in case he can weigh in with background.

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Having marine places would make curating marine taxa (like cephalopods and cetaceans) significantly more meaningful. Atlases and taxon ranges would be more accurate too.

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I agree it would be useful to have Standard Marine Places. We’re taking piecemeal steps in this direction with adding the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of iNaturalist Network countries (e.g. Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal, NZ has a couple of legacy ones that don’t conform exactly), though they are not yet standard places. They’re based on the aforementioned marineregions.org, which is an incredible resource. However, each file still needs additional work to subtract the space of the associated country boundary in iNaturalist (the Standard Place) and then find & fix gaps, holes, and overlap along/within the neighboring places. It’s a lot painstaking work, and if you try to over-automate gap filling I think accidents like this can happen.

New places, more than many other parts of the site, can create a large infrastructure burden, which is why the size and complexity of new places are limited. When someone add or edits extremely large or complex (and/or highly observose) places, it can cause the site to slow down, so when we do these as staff we test and then schedule these kinds of changes.

This is all to explain that adding places for all the world’s oceans is a substantial undertaking that requires staff time/coordination, so I think it’s unlikely to happen in the near term in the context of other priorities, but it’s on our minds.

(Sorry I wrote this a while ago but didn’t post it until I rediscovered the tab… eek)

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Thanks for this response, Carrie, that’s helpful to know. Great to hear that there is some work ongoing to address this. Perhaps if there is anyone with a pressing need for a large new standard place they could post here to help with prioritization.

Do standard marine places include rivers?

I’m running a little project on the aquatic life of the river in my city and right now, much like this user…

…I have to go through this incredibly time consuming search method to find observations. It would make my day if I could just type “River Name” into the search and be done. As far as I can see the only other alternative is to manually create a place for the river- and no thanks to trying to outline that polygon!

tl;dr- Rivers are hugely important geographical features. We need to be able to search them specifically!

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Using EEZs and the top map is a great idea, but do we not want a more natural classification? After all species are not political entities (except to miners and fishers), but have independent distributions.

As an example: take southern Africa. The region has been identified as having six biogeographical provinces:
The West Coast belongs the the Benguela upwelling zone, and comprises the Namib and Namaqua provinces. It is part of the eastern Atlantic, and is not very rich, but highly productive.

The East Coast belongs to the Indo-West Pacific, and comprises the Natal, Delagoa and Indo-West Pacific provinces. Being a warm current, although subtropical, many tropical species extend here and the diversity is high, although productivity is low.

And then the southern 900km, is the Agulhas Province: it shares features with the southern Oceans: the Antarctic, and has high endemism.

So within South Africa we have three major biogeographical Realms: the Atlantic, the Indian and the “Antarctic”. Lumping them as a South Africa marine makes little sense to anyone except a politician. It would be nice to use these zones though: so the South African East Coast shares its species with the western Indian Ocean, and the South African West Coast shares its species with Namibia and Angola. Not being able to separate these major zones results in lots of irrelevant species displaying when trying to make IDs based on places. As standards places these would be of use to the entire southern African community.

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I tried to search for hermits of the American East coast lately (For clarification: am talking about the continent, not the US) … and it proofed impossible, as many American countries have Atlantic and Pacific coast. Imagine how easy this would be, if the Atlantic were a place.

(edit) Realizing right now that the Atlantic also has a European and African coast line, - with hermits… :D well in case the idea was not good, it was funny at least.

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I have been looking at ecoregion maps lately and curious why both terrestrial and marine ecoregions are not represented as places alongside the geopolitical places found under Standard places (as opposed to Community Curated). I do appreciate that it is likely a huge undertaking and possibly resource heavy.

In part my interest lies in a desire I had to explore as many ecosystems as I could using World Heritage natural sights as my starting points and try to populate the observations in these areas.

[ed. Heads up, the app.mapx.org and wesr.unepgrid.ch links seem to be slow loaders (data pigs?)]

While looking at the topic elsewhere I found that the UN Environment Programme has what they call the World Environment Situation Room (probably not news to many but news to me) - https://wesr.unep.org/ . As part of this I was exploring their Global Monitoring resource, app.mapx.org , via the Biodiversity link to https://wesr.unepgrid.ch/?project=MX-EDD-M46-8XZ-MAG-RLC&language=en . Drilling into this resource further finds what I thought was particularly interesting. Under the Ecoregions tab, Marine Ecoregions of the World (MEOW) demonstrates places referenced to marine ecosystems rather than geopolitical boundaries. The MEOW is referenced to the journal article BioScience, 57(7):573-583 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1641/B570707 Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas.

The ecoregions found on the MEOW resource, https://wesr.unepgrid.ch/static.html?views=MX-FR3KW-TRWD1-TRE1G&zoomToViews=true&language=en& , quite well illustrated and could be a good resource for developing Standard Marine Places.

@tonyrebelo should be pleased to find that the Natal, Agulhas Bank, Namaqua marine ecoregions are represented but are hard to see the delineation because the generic ocean colour is grey and the Temperate Southern Africa realm, which they are a part of, is a similar, although not equal, grey. The delineations between Natal, Agulhas Bank is near Cannon Rocks, south of Port Alfred. The delineation between Agulhas Bank and Namaqua is near Platboom Beach north of the Cape of Good Hope.

BTW sidebar - The Terrestrial Ecoregions, Ecoregions2017, resource is https://wesr.unepgrid.ch/static.html?views=MX-305PX-2NDC3-NOO27&zoomToViews=true&language=en&
The Ecoregions2017 references a further revision of the Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World (TEOW)(see Olsen et al., 2001) via BioScience, Volume 67, Issue 6, June 2017, Pages 534–545, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix014 An Ecoregion-Based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm

Also sidebar - in an article in Current Biology Volume 28, ISSUE 15, P2506-2512.e3, August 06, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.06.010 The Location and Protection Status of Earth’s Diminishing Marine Wilderness. may be of interest for looking at Marine Wilderness https://wesr.unepgrid.ch/static.html?views=MX-ZVPND-DCYG0-0X4LB&zoomToViews=true&language=en&

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The lack of functionality with regards to searching bodies of water is still a major impediment. Here’s a recent post I made related to this topic regarding a misleading location search.

Can anyone comment on whether there is any progress being made towards improving this?