Obtaining lists of obscured taxa

There is currently a discussion going on among the Consortium of California Herbaria to decide whether or not to obscure localities of sensitive plants, and for which species. I thought that having the list of plant species obscured on iNat would be a good starting point. Is there a way I could see a list of California plant species with automatic geoprivacy?

This should be exactly what you’re looking for:

The place id parameter is for California; the taxon geoprivacy parameter shows all obs that are automatically privated or obscured, and the taxon id parameter is for Plantae.

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It also returns all records manually obscured though. There is no way to limit the search to just system generated obscuring.

Thanks @zdanko! That is useful. Wow-- 1800 species is a huge proportion of the flora! Is there a way to download the taxon list (not the observations)? @cmheatle – do you know if the manually obscured records are based on taxa (curators’ decisions) or on observations?

Thanks again to you both!

According to the search URL wiki, the taxon_geoprivacy parameter should only return observations with system generated obscuration (taxon geoprivacy) applied. If it is not working that way, there may be a bug to report. It is of course possible that the observer could have also applied personal geoprivacy to such observations, but it should not include observations with only personal geoprivacy.

Where there may be an issue, though, is that the system will apply taxon geoprivacy to an observation if there is any identification of that taxon on the observation, even if it is not the community ID. So you may get more species in the above search than are actually obscured by the system.


Something is wrong with implementation. That search for example returns narrowleaf sword Fern with 75 observations. It is not auto obscured anywhere.

Yes, narrowleaf swordfern is identified as “globally vulnerable” and auto-obscured, see: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/80164-Polystichum-imbricans-imbricans

One other confusion is that auto-obscuring is applied to observations with ANY ID that is obscured, not just the Community ID, so includes observations with a non-protected Community ID if anyone gave it an incorrect ID that is protected. So, the California list probably includes taxa that would not be obscured if there was 100% agreement on the ID.


Yes, that is coming from one of the subspecies of Polystichum imbricans (subsp. imbricans) which has taxon geoprivacy turned on, and explains why the species as a whole comes out in the search.

But it’s strange that this subspecies has 93 observations, while the other subsp. curtum with 75 observations (coincidentally?) does not have taxon geoprivacy turned on.

Thanks for your responses, @jdmore and @twainwright – I’m still a bit confused about the list of ~1800 taxa. Some of these, e.g. Abronia maritima are ‘globally secure’ as listed by NatureServe, so why would their localities be obscured? This list includes taxa with observations with conflicting identifications representing rare plants? Thanks for your insight!

The Polystichum imbricans situation does seem like an error. (P. i. curtum is more rare than P. i. imbricans). @cmheatle

in this case, the site is using the information from the California Native Plant Society, who say that at a state level, he plant is vulnerable. you can go to the taxon page (https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/75244-Abronia-maritima), then click on the Status section, then look at the Conservation Status subsection.

re-read twainwright’s post above. one thing to note beyond this, in case others haven’t covered it is that the list proposed by zdanko will be at species level and above. (in other words it does not go down to subspecies, variety, etc.) also, it does not cover non-verifiable observations (non-wild, no date, etc.).

if you agree with the query that zdanko provided above, then you can use something like this to get the same information in more of a list form: https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNatAPIv1_observations_species_counts.html?place_id=14&taxon_geoprivacy=obscured_private&taxon_id=47126&verifiable=true. it doesn’t have export / download functionality, but it’s probably good enough.

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If your question is why the one is obscured and the other is not, I personally cant answer that. Being from Eastern Canada, I can’t speak to the relative abundance of either. NatureServe data does appear to support that curtum has a more at risk status.

Unfortunately it is not possible for curators to know why any individual conservation status and/or geoprivacy is not entered into the inat database. There are multiple possible reasons the curtum data is not entered:

  • it could be a nomenclature issue that the inat database uses one name and whatever the source is, in this case NatureServe uses a different name thus leading to a failure to match when the load was complete
  • the review by NatureServe may have been completed after the load into inat was done and was not present to load
  • the species could have been added to the inat database after the load of conservation statuses was done
  • a curator may have determined the listing was not relevant or needed and simply deleted it

Of these the only 1 I can for sure eliminate is the 3rd, the subspecies has been in the iNat database for a long time.

The whole NatureServe dataset is unclear how it is maintained. The iNat page for curtum lists the NatureServe rank as Vulnerable in Canada

(I run the site in Danish, so the ‘Sårbar’ you see is Danish for vulnerable), yet NatureServe does not appear to even evaluate or believe curtum is found in Canada, the only listing there is for California.

So you have a subspecies with a USA N3 national rank which is vulnerable, but listed as not evaluated in the only state it is found not entered at all for that state, nor is the national rank entered, and an entry for Canada that does not exist at NatureServe cited as being from there.


Sorry for the delay in responding, you misspelled my name in the @ callout so I didnt get a notification and just read this today.

@cmcheatle (spelled correctly this time) and @pisum – thanks to you both for your help! It seems there is no easy answer, or a way to generate minimum rank taxon spreadsheet of iNaturalist obscured taxon data. Based on my own experience, and familiarity with some unpublished data, Polystichum imbricans subspecies are often misidentified in herbarium collections, so they can’t be easy to deal with from a data management perspective.

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