Short version: Curators, please don’t change any conservation statuses or taxon geoprivacy in Canada for the next couple of weeks, and after that, please consult with NatureServe Canada first.
We’ve been in correspondence with collaborators at NatureServe Canada (part of the iNaturalist Canada steering committee) about updating conservation statuses. After much consultation and refinement, we are starting a process of bulk updating thousands of records across Canada.
As part of this conversation to improve the process of updates, we’ve added instructions to the curator guide about how to manage other conservation status or taxon geoprivacy changes in Canada going forward.
In Canada, where iNaturalist has a member of the iNaturalist Network that oversees iNaturalist.ca, NatureServe Canada’s Conservations Data Centers (CDCs), establish and maintain the conservation statuses for each province and territory (except Quebec) that control the automatically applied “taxon geoprivacy”.
If any curator would like to make changes to the taxon geoprivacy for any national, provincial, or territorial unit of Canada, please contact Allison Siemens-Worsley (firstname.lastname@example.org) NatureServe Canada’s National Data Support Biologist with the proposed change(s) and rationale. Allison will forward your request to the appropriate provincial/territorial CDC for review/response. Discussions between CDCs and curators should lead to an agreement that is favourable to both parties and biodiversity conservation. Curators must ultimately follow the recommendation from the CDC and are invited to discuss any concerns with the iNaturalist community in order to promote a broader discussion and identify alternative solutions that are agreeable to all parties.
If no response is provided to the curator by the CDC within 10 business days, the curator may proceed with the change to taxon geoprivacy and will confirm the details of their update(s) by email to Allison Siemens-Worsley.
We expect these updates to happen over the next few weeks. The first step (done on March 7) is to update statuses and add taxon geoprivacy for some species. The second phase (late March) is to open up (i.e. remove) obscuration due to taxon geoprivacy for some species in some places. Please bear with us during this process. The end result should be less obscured data for species in Canada that are not threatened by poaching, collection, or harassment.
Additional context on the updates provided below by @allisonsw_nsc:
NatureServe Canada is a registered charity that functions as a network of provincial and territorial Conservation Data Centres (CDCs) to develop, manage and distribute authoritative information critical to the conservation of Canada’s biodiversity. There are nine independent CDCs covering all provinces and territories (except Quebec). Each CDC is responsible for maintaining data on species that occur in their subnation. CDCs undertake biological inventories to document rare species and ecological communities, analyze critical conservation data, provide tailored information products and services, and make their data widely available to the public. On top of these tasks a CDC also has responsibility to assign provincial ranks (Sranks) to the species in their jurisdiction. These ranks are developed through rigorous scientific standards set by NatureServe.
When the iNaturalist.ca gateway was created in 2015 iNaturalist exported subnational and national species ranks from NatureServe Explorer tool. Anything with the rank of S1-S3 (ranks are numbered 1-5 with 1 being most endangered and 5 being common) was automatically obscured for the region in which it was ranked that. Since ranks are constantly being reviewed and updated these are now very much outdated. NatureServe Canada on behalf of the CDCs approached iNaturalist to have the obscured lists updated, to reflect current ranks and location sensitive species.
In order to update the obscured species lists on iNaturalist we first had to compile lists for every province and territory of sensitive species that merit protection by having their location obscured. Each CDC was approached separately and provided a list of sensitive species and their ranks. Overall the general consensus was to pare down the obscured species lists so that researchers (CDCs included) could extract more accurate and timely information from iNaturalist. Most CDCs did an internal review of their taxa and only selected species for obscuring that are sensitive to persecution or harm, regardless of rank. Others chose to stick with the method of obscuring all of their “tracked” species and/or species with ranks of S1-S3. This method of allowing the CDCs to provide a tailored list for their jurisdiction ensures that the most up-to-date and accurate information is used to determine which species are obscured.
For further information on NatureServe Canada and the NatureServe Network, or on the decision process for obscuring species please contact Allison Siemens Worsley, who can put you in touch with a CDC if necessary. You can email her at email@example.com.