Implement Standard Marine Places for the world's oceans

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?

I’ve added more EEZs for network member countries but adding large and/or observose places continues to be an infrastructure burden.

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It would be helpful to be able to identify marine fish related to each ocean. There was a recent post which discussed the number of “needs id” for observations in iNat. For areas where there is an easy way to find all marine fishes, the “needs ID” is much smaller - I think people are easily able to pull up fish in the area and identify them.

Also, REEF.org has marine regions organized by the fish that are found there. Maybe something like this is a start? They also have smaller areas within each region that have similar fish. https://www.reef.org/db/zonecodes/

I’m adding my voice in agreement to this. The bias towards terrestrial regions makes efficient ID’ing difficult for marine biologists using iNaturalist. I think a good start would be just listing the major world oceans as regions (including a few miles inshore as a lot of obs are not perfectly accurate location-wise). That would be very helpful to marine biologists. I basically create my own regions through place-by-place filtering, but many places offshore don’t have a region to filter out. As joe_fish indicated, I can’t just draw a rectangle around the Caribbean for example and exclude the Pacific Ocean from Central American obs, so I have to do it place-by-place and just accept that some Pacific obs slip though because they aren’t assigned to any region. And that’s true for any oceanic search. I can already filter by continent. It’s only logical to be able to filter by ocean.

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I see that the Sargasso Sea is missing – that oval near where it should be is actually Bermuda’s EEZ.

I am very gratefull to the staff members as carrieseltzer, who added some EEZ. I hope that small contries located in Oceania, will have their EEZ recognized soon too. I agree that species are not political entities, but the laws and the marine protected areas are. Knowing what species live in a EEZ is important for their conservation.

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This would be cool, then we could atlas sea-dwelling creatures that share names with mushrooms there. It is really annoying not being able to upload my Cortinarius and Lactarius to their proper genera, not so much of a problem with Cortinarius once I learn the new genera they have implemented this year. I don’t think iNat keeps any altitude measurements, it would be easy to set the altitude of observations below sea level. More of a sidebar conversation, but I don’t think it warrants it’s own post.

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Actually I can’t figure out what genus Cortinarius is getting confused with, somehow a search for it matches the species epithet corticarius though, and vice versa.