Newbie question: What's the right thing to do with an observation if it no longer exists (e.g. a tree cut down)

I am brand new to the inaturalist platform and am excited to be here. I’m curious about protocol if an observation of a tree was made, and then after a few weeks, the tree is cut down. Is there an ideal sort of way I should update the record, particularly to be helpful to researchers?
Thank you in advance,


welcome to iNat and the forum :)

No need to do anything to the original observation, but if you wanted you could take a another photo of the now dead tree, upload it as a separate observation, and then link the two. No obligation to do this though, leaving everything as is is completely fine


You could also edit the description of the original observation, or just add a comment to it, with information about when the tree was cut down, etc., if you wanted to document that information for posterity. The information might be useful to others too. Avoid the temptation to use the “Dead” category of the Alive/Dead annotation, though, since that is supposed to reflect its status at the time of the original observation.

But yes, no obligation to make any changes. The observation is still valuable as-is.


Not exactly the same situation, but @robert_taylor has followed a magnificent African Baobab in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia from 2007. Unfortunately it collapsed earlier this month, documented by robert_taylor.

May 2019:
Nov 2019:
July 2021 RIP


Are these all the same individual tree? The second to the last observation looked pretty healthy. How very sad. :pleading_face:

What might have caused that in just 2 years?



@mtxo I have nothing to add to what has already been said. I just wanted to say that asking questions is an important part of learning, so well done!


Nothing needs to be done, as this is really only a problem with plants. For animals that constantly move around, it doesn’t seemingly exist to us until we see signs of it physically, If that makes sense

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the original question was about a tree. We are interested in plants.


I think there is value in having these “historical” records, even if the specimen that was the subject of the observation is no longer there. With less long-lived plants, such as annuals, none of the plants photographed in previous years are still around. However, the record that they were there is still valuable information for researchers.


The desperate situation of our local biodiversity and any kind of natural habitat, as well as urban vegetation, is one of the reasons I started documenting my local area, in North Auckland, New Zealand, in iNat.

I created two Fields to make the results more accessible through Explore:

  1. “Native plant no longer present” (with values for common reasons…eg trampling, vandalism, misidentification by conservation volunteers or contractors, construction, herbicide, weed invasion, herbivory (natural association, or imported pest animal?),natural succession, pollution, old age, disease, drought, combination, unknown…etc etc. In case of tree being cut down, why? Risk to safety? Amenity (public perception of old or damaged tree?) Change of land use? (Eg road widening, construction) Interesting what one learns and can then communicate to others, by asking the question.

  2. Ecological threats…to indicate the threat/s observed at time of observation…eg erosion, sewage overflow, refuse dumping, footprints, weeds. Later observations can show the outcome for that specimen

I have way more observations relevant to these queries than I can fully index with fields, or follow up on, but I always hope that more people in this locality will begin to observe, document and follow, so that eventually there would be more awareness of what we are losing, why and how, leading to changed behaviours and practices.

Of course I love it when there is no threat or loss to document! But failure to see, understand and record the losses is plain silliness, in my view.

So I applaud the original question.


Thank you everyone! This is very helpful and reassuring! I will add a second record this week showing the dead stump and link it to the original observation.

This particular tree was an invasive species in this area. That’s actually the main reason I signed up for iNaturalist - I figured it might help to catalog invasive species like this. And I learned there are a lot more in my area…

At a much smaller scale, I have a garden with lots of weeds (yay). Many of which I’m very curious to learn more about and figure I could use iNaturalist to try to do that, so I can decide what to keep and what to cull. But I am definitely going to be digging many/most of these up. Is it a bit disingenuous for me to add these observations knowing that I’m going to remove them? Based on some earlier comments in this thread, I guess it is helpful to have a record that the plants were there.


Your record of the weeds you remove, can be useful to you. As well as for the distribution of that weed.


I had the exact same problem with disappearing predaceous diving beetles.

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Again, it’s no problem at all. It’s the observation that matters, not what happens later. You might find a new ‘weed’!


Yes, I know a tree is a plant. I was just saying

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Since the purpose of iNat is to record a specific encounter with a specific organism at a specific time, it follows that your observation of the tree while it was alive is a separate record from your encounter with it after it was cut down.

Think in terms of an annual plant. Its offspring might be in the same place the following year, but the original plant would not. But the observation the year it was alive is still a valid record of its presence at that time.


Your record of the ecology of the site before intervention, and as you go along, will be tremendously satisfying to you when you can no longer accurately remember its original state. The initial observations will also provide evidence of the results of weeding. Your approach is exactly what I recommend, rather than indiscriminate “cleaning up” followed by planting. You may already have wild desirable plants you didnt know existed, more will arrive or increase, and you will be able to show others what is possible.

Here in NZ (weediest country in the world) many if not most people dont know that controlling weeds individually by hand is possible. The government and local weed control websites tend to declare that it is necessary to spray, paste, drill and inject poisons for many of the species. I have trouble convincing people with technical training and knowledge in weed control that manual control is possible, but maybe one day at least some of them will look at the evidence I am collecting.
If not, as I said, it is satisfying for oneself to see the change over time, and iNat provides a great vehicle for this through its many Search filters.


In regards to weeds, this was posted recently - Don’t be afraid to ID “common” weeds! - General - iNaturalist Community Forum

If you’re digging the weeds up anyway, it is also a good opportunity to include pictures of their root systems in observations, which 1.) makes a contribution to people (and the computer) learning that taxa because not that many observations have images of the roots but many guides based on dried museum specimens include things about the root systems in their distinguishing features and 2.) potentially helps document the range of morphological variation in root systems of that species