Hello, everyone! This is my first forum post, and I don’t know how exactly this could be implemented, but it occurred to me, so I figured I might as well try making a post about it. I did a cursory search, and it didn’t look like anyone else had brought this up before, so here goes.
I am an amateur plant enthusiast from Alabama, and I have used the Alabama Plant Atlas to a great extent. It is incredibly helpful. But I’ve recently noticed something: A discrepancy.
If you compare the number of verifiable, research grade species of vascular plants that have been observed in the separate counties of Alabama on iNaturalist to the number of species that have herbarium records in those counties in the APA, counties seem to be missing quite a few species on iNat compared to the APA.
To provide a few examples:
- In Baldwin County, iNaturalist has Research Grade observations for 1,330 species of vascular plants, but there are records for 1,968 species on APA for the same county! That’s 638 species that iNaturalist is missing from its database, or about 32% of the species on the APA.
- Jefferson County does much better, with 1,121 species listed on iNat compared to 1,215 on APA, but that’s still nearly 100 species (or about 8% of the APA) missing from iNat’s data.
- Cherokee County has 726 species on iNat compared to the APA’s 1,166 species. Fewer than Baldwin’s discrepancy at only 440 species, but those 440 account for a staggering 38% of vascular plants in the county!
I think we might do well to rectify this by incorporating the Alabama Plant Atlas’s database into iNaturalist. I’m not entirely sure how it would be done or what legal issues that might arise regarding copyright, but I think it would be worth doing if possible.
Alabama’s incredible natural diversity is being underrepresented on iNaturalist, and this is well demonstrated by comparison of individual counties, but also by comparison of of the number of species recorded for the state as a whole: The APA lists 4,296 species in its database. iNaturalist however only has 3,510. That’s 786 species or 18% of the entire state’s vascular plant diversity missing from iNat.
I know that this kind of project can be a lot of work (and sometimes not even possible at all), but I wanted to at least get the conversation started. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the first person to bring this up, but I didn’t see anyone else talking about it.
Let me know what y’all think, and if this would even be possible to do! Thanks for reading :)