What is a good distance to add the same species again?

Hello everyone,

I just started with iNat. I am not sure if this is a commonly answered question, but i could not find it in the help menu. What is a good distance to add the same species again? The same plants grow in a similar area, of course. But on which rate/resolution is it useful to add them as observations? Is there a general guideline? Or is it dependent on relief/height/change of landscape? If I would like to observe a unique plant species in a city, i need a higher observation resolution. But how is it for general observations?


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There is no ‘official’ answer to this question. Under an absolute strict reading of the site guidelines, every individual plant or other organism needs to be its own observation.

However, I’m not sure the community is fully onboard with this definition.

The topic is discussed in some length here

I guess it really comes down to what you want to enter, and how much effort you want to expend.

There’s no general guideline for distance between observing the same species. Most people will just submit a species once per “site” (e.g. a nature preserve) per day, or far less frequently. Sometimes I add several observations of the same plant species in the same approximate location (e.g. within a few meters of each other). Others may log every single one they see. :) https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&taxon_id=54449&user_id=ck2az

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For highly variable or rare taxa, I often add one per individual.
For areas that I survey in a systematic way, I’ll often add many per day. It sort of depends on your priorities.

But I really dislike the idea of taking 20 photos of a single species of Calochortus over the course of the day and then lumping them all into a single point. In general I guess my preference would be for folks to split them up.



To understand why there can be no answer to this question, you first need to realise that other people are using iNaturalist in a thousand different ways you probably haven’t even thought of.

I might be using the site for building my “life list”, and once I have logged a species once, I may not be interested in ever logging another observation of that species.

My next door neighbour might be making a list of all the species found in his garden, and perhaps he is also interested in seasonality (what birds visit when, what flowers when) so he’ll be logging observations of the same plants and animals on different days.

Down the road, perhaps a school is having a competition for which student can find the most species in the school grounds. That’s could yield hundreds of observations of the same species from the same locality.

A team of botanists at the local university could be working on a theory that the sycamore tree is, in fact two species with subtly different leaves. They would like to have photos of thousands of sycamore trees, as many as possible, regardless of where they are located.

The truth is every observation is valuable to somebody. People here are not merely interested in knowing about each species’ distribution, and filling in gaps in the map, but also when things are seen, and so on. Even making an observation of the same one plant in your garden every week for 10 years would yield very interesting and useful information (for example: why did it flower 6 weeks earlier than usual this year?)


One project I’m working on is to map individual junipers within the upper Sagehen creek watershed. So far have documented over 300 J. grandis. I’m curious if seeing their distribution will reveal anything interesting. One set of trees made me wonder if this is a bird flight path. . . . etc.

I would not take this approach with more abundant species like lodgepole pine. In this case I try to sample the boundaries of their range or distribution.


iNat’s primary goal is to help people engage with nature, so iNat should be enjoyable for you to use. If you find it enjoyable to record multiple individuals of the same species while on a hike, then go for it, but I think most people just make one or two for a site. Also, you might burnout identifiers if you add tons of observations of the same species on every hike. :-)

It’s important to remember that everyone has a different reason for using iNaturalist, so there is no universal answer for what is “useful”.

Yes, this would be an improper user of iNaturalist, as an observation is a record of an observer’s encounter with an individual organism in a time and place.


200-300 feet is usually the minimum for me. Any less, and your points are overlapping on a map. iNat seems more designed for distribution data, not abundance data, so this is the guideline I follow. If I find something that rare that really needs to be documented individually or in terms of counting the population, that data can go elsewhere generally (Calflora, Mushroom Observer, BugGuide, etc.).

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