On Chinese cryptogams

Hi all,

Why so few obs on iNat? I heard that it (or at least some versions of it, especially the app when it is predownloaded in a foreign country) are not censored there; is this true? Besides, one would imagine that with the vast quantity of vacationers visiting there would be plenty of observations even if it was censored.

What do you mean by censored?

@Marina_Gorbunova Censor = URL banned from browsers by their internet firewall thing.

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By cryptogam do you mean just seedless/nonvascular plants (mosses, ferns, horsetails,) or the broader definition that includes algae, lichens, and fungus? iNaturalist is only as complete as the users who contribute to it, and observations are generally biased by where users are and what they choose to photograph, not necessarily representative of the biodiversity of an area. There are over 17,000 observations from the Kingdom Plantae in China, but only about 100 mosses, 630 ferns, and 1300 fungus observations. There are many possible reasons for these numbers that need not invoke censorship. Maybe trees and flowers are more noticeable than mosses to the casual nature explorer. Maybe people are more likely to photograph flowers than ferns for personal or cultural preferences. Maybe iNaturalist isn’t as popular in China as it is in other countries. Maybe the 1,700 Chinese plant observations currently identified to no lower than phylum hold more cryptogams. One could just as easily ask why only 2,000 spider observations. If you have friends in China, or who’ve taken photos in China, by all means invite them to share their cryptogam photos, and all others with the iNat community!


Thanks for your reply.

Yes, lichenized fungi are included. While cryptogams worldwide tend to suffer from institutional taxon biases and the resulting severe lack of research funding/attention, I suspect something anomalous is at work here (and with the spiders possibly, too).

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Unless I am mistaken, the site and app are pretty well unavailable in China. The app store is blocked, as are all Google products (and of course the site uses Google Maps etc). Tourists could of course add stuff after they leave, but as noted above unless someone was going there specifically to observe fungi or spiders etc I suspect there will be a bias towards larger flora and fauna.

I guess Hong Kong residents who visit China could always add stuff too, along with any residents who either travel or are able to evade the firewall.


Of course it’s very possible that iNaturalist is blocked or restricted for users in China, which would certainly put a damper on the number of observations across the board. There was mention of the incompatibility with Google Maps at this discussion, and the Moths of Asia project mentions the Chinese firewall.

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I was aware of the G Maps thread but not the Asian moths one; thanks for the link.

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Those groups are in lesser bin, where a few people paying enough attention to them comparing to flowering plants or vertebrates, so the lack of them is a worldwide trend plus less observations from the country because of bans, etc.


It’s been a while since I was in China, but I seem to recall being able to post observations and perform other typical iNat activities while there.


According to this website, iNat is accessible in all regions of China.

We’ve had some contacts in China test out iNat and for the most part it’s pretty unusable there without a VPN, mainly due to the Google Maps integration and the fact that some of the website’s code is on Google servers. Someone told me the iOS app works, but it’s very slow.


Thanks tiwane!

I should say if anyone in China has a different experience than what I described, please let us know at help@inaturalist.org.

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If I ever am back there I’ll try and let you know (if I remember to)

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Hi all! I’m an iNat user from China. I agree that the website is generally quite slow here, with the map unavailable and the pictures slow to load (occasionally the pictures would load quickly if I’m lucky), so using the website is quite difficult. However, I don’t have any issues with the app. The maps in the app are using 高德地图 (AutoNavi, a Chinese map service) so the maps are accessible (hopefully it is possible to integrate this into the website as well…a selfish feature request). The app is also much faster in submitting observations and viewing pictures (not much different from my experience using it in the US). Therefore, when I submit observations I usually do so through the app. The app is available on App Store here.
I think another reason for a low amount of Chinese observations on iNat is that nature-related activities started quite late here (I think the first official birding organization in China started in the late 90’s), and many people haven’t discovered this site. Most Chinese nature-enthusiasts are based on local forums or blogs, and I guess they are not very accustomed to a system like iNat where observations are organized systematically. Many users I see on these forums are curious people who are quite satisfied with knowing the Chinese common name of a beautiful or interesting organism that they see incidentally. During recent years there is a growth in the number of nature-enthusiasts in China (with myself a product of that growth, I think), and following that there is an increase in the number of iNat users I see here. I hope more Chinese observations can be added.

*Edit: Another problem might be that although the site has a Chinese translation, the translation is sometimes a bit weird (for example, “identifications” is translated to “personal identity” in the Chinese version). This might be a problem for users who can’t understand English, just like any other language issues discussed here.


@kevin_siyuan Your analysis on low observations is very interesting! Does the Chinese maps software automatically replace Google when an iNat app downloaded outside of China is taken inside, or is there a specific version adapted for China that only exists on the Chinese app store?

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Hmm. I’m not sure on the reason for switching the map service. If I remember correctly I downloaded the app in China and it automatically used AutoNavi when I opened it. When I visit other countries it switched to Google Map, and when I return it switches back to AutoNavi. So I guess it is based on location for usage instead of location for download, but I’m not sure.


While the iOS system has some decent solution as @kevin_siyuan pointed out, most people in China still use Android on various brands of cellphones, and iNat is not readily available there since GooglePlay is blocked, nowhere to find the App! I would be extremely grateful if anybody in the software team would be interested in uploading the Android iNat to a few widely used Chinese Android stores. I could help on the Chinese side. @tiwane


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