I am becoming increasingly aware of an apparent invasive species bias in iNaturalist observations, particular those by new(er) users. Though I realize that iNaturalist isn’t a great tool for mapping the abundance of species, I can’t help but notice a number of places where there are more observations of common and well-documented introduced species than of native species that are actually more abundant. An example would be Dutchess County in New York, which has more observations of garlic mustard, Japanese barberry and multiflora rose than of any native plants, and while these are common species, they aren’t nearly as abundant as native species such as sugar maples, red oaks, shrub willows, jewelweed, goldenrod, etc., though these are poorly represented in comparison. Again, I realize that iNaturalist isn’t intended to map the abundance of species, but I find this somewhat concerning, as it perhaps suggests a trend that people are taking more notice to common invasive species than slightly less familiar natives. We have plenty of data on where these invasive species occur in the area, yet we are seeing constant additions to observations of these species, far outpacing new observations of most native species. What are the implications of this? Will we not accurately document the presence of uncommon natives that are likely to decline in the future - such as red spruce, tamarack, ginseng and lady-slipper orchids where I live - if we continue to focus on well-documented invasive species?
The point of this is to ask how we can help foster knowledge of, and love for, our native species that many commonly seem to gloss over? It isn’t hatred of invasive species, but love of native species, that our degraded ecosystems need most right now.
I’m curious to know others’ thoughts on this matter, and if anyone else has noticed a similar trend?