Unintended cascading of establishment means

Found this by accident, I don’t think it is expected behaviour.

Process to replicate:

  • I was adding an endemic status flag to a species, which had none set at all. In this case marking a species as endemic to Vietnam. After saving the endemic flag, it auto-created a record marking the species as Endemic to Asia.

Initial state showing no entries:

Statge after saving Vietnam status with Asia status set

  • since the Asia endemic is technically true but functionally meaningless, I wanted to remove it. This is done by setting the status back to Unknown. However when I did so, I accidentally hit Introduced and saved that. Upon doing so, a series of child records setting the status as Introduced were automatically created. I did not hit the button to cascade down (tried twice with 2 different species, just in case I had accidentally hit it the first time but same result).

State after accidentally hitting Introduced for Asia:

If you want test cases, these species are endemic to Vietnam but have no current status set on their checklists
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/15582-Crocias-langbianis - this one already has the Asia endemic

Just to be clear, part of my confusion is the inconsistent behaviour - Introduced flag leading to auto-population, while the Endemic flag does not. Not sure which is optimal, but I’d expect consistency.

I think this is currently intended behavior, for better or worse. The key is in the last sentence of the fine print on the curator cascading tool:

  • “This will change the establishment means of all listings of this taxon on all descendant places of Vietnam. Only curators can use this tool. Changing the establishment means to “introduced” will have roughly the same effect, but it won’t change existing values, just fill in blank ones.” [emphasis mine]

As I read that last sentence (and have also tested), it is implying that one does not need to use the cascading tool when changing to introduced, because the effect will be roughly the same anyway. Except it won’t change existing (implying Native or Endemic) values, just fill in blank (implying Unknown) values.

So I think the new introduced listings that showed up for you were for places where Establishment Means had previously been Unknown for that taxon. And this happens whenever Introduced is set for a parent place, without needing to use the special curator tool.

Furthermore, the display effect will be the same, even though any existing Native or Endemic children were left unchanged. This is because current system behavior is to show an observation as being of an introduced taxon when the observation overlaps spatially with any place in which that taxon is set as Introduced. It doesn’t matter that it may simultaneously overlap with other place polygons where the species is set to native or endemic – the Introduced status always prevails, as theoretically it should. (I tested this all pretty thoroughly a few months ago…)

Again not saying I completely like the current behavior, but I think what you are seeing is an expected result.