Queensland (AU) confidential species and conservation status

As some of you may have already seen if you clear flags, there have been many instances of Australian orchids from the state of Queensland that have been obscured, despite them having no conservation status (or being assessed as Least Concern).

This seems to be stemming from a Queensland Government list of ‘confidential species’, although little explanation is given of what a ‘confidential species’ is.

I am presuming these are species that the data provider (in this case WildNet database) chooses to obscure, though I haven’t been able to confirm this.

The result has been that a large number of Queensland orchids have had a conservation status added, and their location obscured. Examples are Dendrobium linguiforme and Dipodium variegatum.

There are a couple things we should probably decide as a group, rather than individual curators working indepentently.

  • Does a QLD Government ‘confidential species’ list constitute justification to obscure a taxon when it is otherwise categorised by the same list as ‘Least Concern’ and explicitly of ‘no conservation significance’?
  • If not, should the conservation status for QLD be removed if they are ‘Least Concern’ or simply updated to ‘Least Concern’ and unobscured?
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Perhaps the Queensland Government should be made aware of the publication on best practices for dealing with sensitive species that is followed by the Commonwealth Government and several of the States. If data is being “obscured” then it should be documented and reasons given.

Chapman, AD (2020). Current Best Practices for Generalizing Sensitive Species Occurrence Data . Copenhagen: Global Biodiversity Information Facility. https://doi.org/10.15468/doc-5jp4-5g10

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Thanks for sharing that. It seems like a useful resource.

I am responsible for some of those LC taxa remaining obscured. I don’t go around obscuring the locations of these taxa. For the ones that I’ve changed, the taxa have originally had a status of Endangered and geoprivacy set to obscured, when they’re not Endangered. So I changed them to LC but left them obscured based on the QLD confidential species list and ALA sensitive species lists. Clearly if a taxon is not endangered it should not have a conservation status of endangered.

To clarify, the statement that “a large number of Queensland orchids have had a conservation status added, and their location obscured” does not reflect what I did. Nothing was “added” (in fact, what happened was that the incorrect EN statuses were removed), and no taxa were obscured that were not already (based on the incorrect EN statuses). The taxa that I have curated were already obscured because they were erroneously flagged as Endangered with their geoprivacy obscured. All I did was remove the incorrect Endangered status, but I left the geoprivacy obscured as they already were if they are listed as sensitive or confidential.

When removing the Endangered statuses but leaving the taxa obscured I first use these:
a) https://www.data.qld.gov.au/dataset/queensland-confidential-species
b) https://lists.ala.org.au/public/speciesLists?q=sensitive

If the taxon was listed as Endangered and obscured but does not appear in any of those lists I will look at the risk assessments for the taxon. I do not think that I’ve opened or obscured the locations of any taxa, just changed the status and left geoprivacy alone

Yes, and that is exactly what happened. The taxa were incorrectly labelled as Endangered (EN), when they’re not, and obscured. For the ones I curated (and the ones I have seen others curate) the incorrect EN status was removed but the geoprivacy was left, as they were, as obscured and a citation/note added as to why the locations are obscured. Perhaps Tony or Scott can see that this is what happened. The taxa were originally obscured by another staff member, probably based on the sensitive species lists, but incorrectly labelled as Endangered when they’re not (maybe they were at the time the EN status was added though, I do not know).