What to do about new regions when the name is already used?

I wanted to add the African Union’s regions (North, East, West, Central, Southern) as places in Africa, so it’s easier to check out/subscribe to larger chunks of Africa without going country to country. But I see that most of the region names are already used by places on iNat which are smaller or defined differently - East Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa.

It is true that the UN defines the same regions slightly differently, but I personally think that the African people should be the ones to decide their regional map.

So how does iNat deal with having region names on the site that don’t align with modern geographic regions? Also none of these regions are smaller than Texas so I believe a curator would need to create these regions, so I guess I’m making that request.

Edit - I’m still curious about how that would be handled, but the language on African Union website uses is Central, Eastern, Western, Southern and Northern.

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You can’t add these. Users are limited to creating places no larger than approximately 500,000 km2.

Even curators have the same limit.

If nobody can add a place larger than 500,000 km2 then where do all the places larger than 500,000 km2 come from?

Site staff can add them, no user can.

Ok then I’m asking the site staff then, not the curators.

couldn’t you create a project that includes a collection of places? then you could filter for the project when looking for that set of places. alternatively, you could set the parameters in the URL directly to filter for multiple places. you could save that list somewhere so that you could use it as needed.


You could, you could do that for New England, the Middle East or the Southwestern United States as well. But it is nicer for users when they don’t have to find a workaround to look at a collection of states/countries that are regularly referred to as a larger region.

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Adding large places to iNaturalist is one of the biggest sources of site slowdowns so we won’t be adding regions like that to iNaturalist.

I’m pretty sure the first two regions you linked to here were created by users who have now deleted their accounts (and they were created in 2012 and 2014). And if you look at the bottom of the Southwestern United States place, it was created by a user back in 2014, before place sizes were restricted the way they are today.

iNaturalist has grown exponentially since 2014 and when new places are created they eat up a lot of resources because so many observations need to be reindexed. This wasn’t the case 7 years ago. Personally I’d like to remove places like these but doing so will actually also trigger massive reindexing, creating another problem. So those large places still exist and new large places can’t be created.


It’s too bad they are set up in a way that would require re-indexing everything. An alternative is to create a Collection Project that adds everything from X amount of existing ‘places’. Wouldn’t adding thousands of observations to projects also cause unnecessary bandwidth usage and slowdown?

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Collection projects are effectively from a technical perspective a saved defined search. They don’t cause any changes in the data.


I don’t really understand the problem. I’m in Canada, which means I get observations that cut off at the border. If I want to look at US sites, I need to go there. And Canada contains a huge range of biogeographical areas. Africans themselves decided to keep national borders where they were at independence. Surely going from Country to Country in a region like West Africa is not a massive hardship. Unless I’m missing something.

Basically when an observation is uploaded (or its location is changed) iNat looks at all the places its location is in (using these rules) and that becomes part of the observation’s data, along with observer, taxon, date, etc. So if one makes an observation in Nigeria, iNaturalist lists Nigeria is one of the places in which that observation was made. If you make a collection project that shows observations made in Nigeria, iNat is able to quickly find all observations in Nigeria and display those in the project. As @cmcheatle says, it’s relatively easy on our infrastructure to do this because the information is already there.

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Ok, got it thanks.

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The problem, specifically, is that I want to subscribe to a location that contains lots of countries, West Africa. In Canada you can subscribe the country and see everything added there, or the continent if you want to include US and Mexico in one step. In West Africa I have to subscribe to 15 countries to get updates in an area smaller than Canada. That means that I have 15 independently acting subscriptions each updating on my home screen multiple times a day (I wish it was just get a once a day update). What that results in is 9 pages of updates to my homepage in the last 12 hours.

But if I could subscribe to West Africa like I can to New England or Southwest US I could (hopefully) just get bulk updates from the region and not bury notifications relevant to my own observations.

I’m making projects for the regions since that seems to be the only option, but I have to say I’m not a big fan of being an American who’s in a position of project owner/admin of regions of Africa. I’m making a project for each region for any other people who have a similar interest in a different part of Africa.

I’m not from the US (the term American refers to the US), nor am I in a position to decide regions in Africa. Or anything at all about the African continent. And, for the record, Western Africa has over 10x the population of Canada, with (I presume) a similar proportion of observations.
Clearly, I missed something.

I don’t know how I could clarify further, I honestly don’t know what you’re confused about. I’m not concerned with population, or redefining borders, I just want to simplify my iNat subscriptions, and maybe make the site feel more relevant for the under-served African users.

Canada has 65 times the amount of observations that Western Africa. 5,530,000 for canada, 84,000 for Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo combined.

The American I was referring to was myself.

Understood. Pax!

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This wasn’t necessarily the point of my post originally but since it came up I find this interesting, the entire region of Western Africa has about 42% of the observations that Portland, Oregon has (~200K vs ~84K). So really the goal here for me was to have a simple way to get updates from 15 large countries that have less activity than one major US city. I assumed if it was an option eventually people from those countries could take advantage as well.

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I have always felt that the larger African continent was always under represented in observations.

Absolutely, Africa has ~2,244,000 observations. 65% of those are in South Africa, ~1,460,000. If South Africa wasn’t so active I would have probably subscribed to the whole continent and none of this would have come up. Too bad you can’t subscribe to a location with a not_place_id type filter.