iNat collected data as a proof for climate change

In a couple of weeks I will be doing a presentation about iNat to a group of students in a climate change awareness related event. I was asked to talk about how iNat can help in studying the effect of climate change on organisms and their populations.
I am kinda struggling with examples. I want to have something visually exciting - like a map where you could clearly see how over the years the populations migrated northward or something like that. In Lithuania (where I live) there are clear examples of climate change effects with praying mantis or wasp spider becoming regulars when 10-15 years ago those were very exotic species. Unfortunately they don’t have a lot of datapoints in iNat and there were barely any users in Lithuania a few years ago, so I can’t really show a change in population.
Maybe you know an example anywhere in the world where climate change is very obvious just by changing the observation year in the search results filter. :)
Any other ideas with this presentation would greatly help as well.
Many thanks


Maybe Lycosa singoriensis? It expanded far North in this century. Also you can check unusual southern Orthoptera species observations, some of them travel with trains, but others expand by themselves with no human help, I’m not n expert, but was told ther’s a full list of such species (I asked my friend so I’m gonna tell you when he answers).
Also maybe observations of Polar Bears? Some territories now lack snow and ice they once had, but a research needed on what you can show.


Pied fly cather is breeding higher in the mountains due to climate change
Several orthoptera species from the south
Goose breeding in the artic, the season is much longer so many more Goose

Afb. 4 & 5: Boven: Sikkelsprinkhaan(orthoptera): voorbeeldsoort die opgerukt is uit het zuiden. bron: Larvalbug’s Garden Page Onder: Bandheidelibel (Odonata): voorbeeldsoort die opgerukt is uit het zuidoosten. bron: the HM rarities freak page

C. Both en M.E. Visser (2001). Adjustment to climate change is constrained by arrival date in a long-distance migrant bird. Nature 411: 296-298.

C. Both (2002). Nemen Bonte Vliegenvangers Ficedula hypoleuca af door klimaatsverandering? Limosa 75: 73-78.

J.J.C.W. van Delft (1998). De Bandheidelibel (Sympetrum pedemontanum (Allioni)) in Nederland. Sympetrum 2: 3-9.

W.N. Ellis, J.H. Donner, J.H. Kuchlein (1997). Recent shifts in distribution of Microlepidoptera in The Netherlands. Entomologische Berichten, Amstedam 57: 119-125.

Caterpillar Eikenprocessierups

Eikenprocessierups en klimaatverandering, 1991-2011


Corn, Oats will grow higher, also in the Baltic states.
Beech and Birch will grow higher (Boomgrens)

Druiven, Grapes, Wine

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Phaneroptera falcata goes up North to Leningrad Oblast, iNat even has an observation from there.


I don’t think iNat data will provide proof because there could be any number of factors involved in trends shown in the iNat record, but it will highlight areas and/or taxa that would be good candidates for more rigorous scientific study and investigation.


I think that in order to use iNat data as a reflection of the actually existing distributions of species, one first has to apply one of the many distribution models that attempt to account for biased sampling (ex: among others). It is a difficult problem and there have been results that show that presence-absence data from citizen science efforts can give misleading conclusions on the changing distribution of taxa, although the specific references escape me at the moment.

This topic might be out of the scope of your talk but I think it would be an interesting intermediate point if you have the time to cover it!


This is just one example, but I thought this article on Giant Swallowtail northward expansion was interesting. They relied heavily on iNat data.

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Seems like a relevant example here also:

“The cause of this expansion, according to the paper, is likely El Niño events and warming temperatures”

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It is important not to confuse the fact that certain species have broaden their distribution mainly due to their hability to adapt to different environmental conditions with the effect of climate change. It would also be important to ascertain if the observation of a given species outside its supposed “climatic belt” is casual or already stable.

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short answer - It would not be scientifically accurate to use inat data in this way. It’s impossible to tell why a species expands it’s range most of the time, and this data is certainly not enough to know.

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Thank you all for the help. Especially deboas. That fiddler crab example is stellar for the presentation. A true inspirational story!

I thought this was a really interesting article - it makes predictions about future changes in the distribution of one specific fungal species as a result of climate change, based on past iNat observations.

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Why should climate change be the driver of the distribution of this species? It could be one of the drivers.
Why not taking into account also the habitat homogeneization (it’s a synanthropic species) and the increase in mycological field research that could have led to an increase of its findings?
Here in Italy there are some plant species that are locally spreading nortwards but only along the road network exploting the creation of new anthropized habitats.
Again, Chlorophyllum molybdites could be not native to California but a true introduced species so it is conceivable that it is under current spreading but with gaps in its distribution.

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