AboutZoos, Since 2008


Bio­di­ver­sity needs cit­i­zen scientists

pub­lished 23 Novem­ber 2016 | mod­i­fied 23 Novem­ber 2016

Could bird­watch­ing or mon­i­tor­ing tree blos­soms in your com­mu­nity make a dif­fer­ence in global envi­ron­men­tal research? A new study says yes: cit­i­zen sci­en­tists have a vital role to play.

Cit­i­zen sci­en­tists are already pro­vid­ing large amounts of data for mon­i­tor­ing bio­di­ver­sity, but they could do much more, accord­ing to a new study pub­lished online on 2 Novem­ber in the jour­nal Bio­log­i­cal Con­ser­va­tion, which sug­gests that cit­i­zen sci­ence has the poten­tial to con­tribute much more to regional and global assess­ments of bio­di­ver­sity. Cit­i­zen sci­en­tists are reg­u­lar peo­ple who pro­vide data or input to sci­ence, for exam­ple by mon­i­tor­ing species in their com­mu­nity or exam­in­ing satel­lite imagery for evi­dence of defor­esta­tion or land use change.

… there are many big data gaps in bio­di­ver­sity, often in those places where the need is great­est. Cit­i­zen sci­en­tists can help to fill some of these gaps, both geo­graph­i­cally and taxonomically
Mark Chan­dler, lead author, Direc­tor of Research Ini­tia­tives, Earth­watch Institute »

Cit­i­zen sci­en­tists are already con­tribut­ing enor­mously to envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence,” says IIASA researcher Linda See. “For exam­ple, a huge amount of species occur­rence data is pro­vided by mem­bers of the inter­ested pub­lic. The ques­tion we addressed was, where are cit­i­zens con­tribut­ing and where are they not, and how can we draw on this phe­nom­e­non to help fill the gaps in science?”

The new arti­cle looks at inter­na­tional con­ven­tions on bio­di­ver­sity and endan­gered species, and the indi­ca­tors that are needed to track bio­di­ver­sity on a global scale, known as Essen­tial Bio­di­ver­sity Vari­ables (EBVs). It exam­ines the areas where cit­i­zen sci­en­tists already con­tribute, those where they do not, and what areas could ben­e­fit from expan­sion of cit­i­zen sci­ence efforts.

citizen science data on biodiversity in EuropeDis­tri­b­u­tion of cit­i­zen sci­ence data pub­lished to the Global Bio­di­ver­sity Infor­ma­tion Facil­ity (GBIF) by taxa for coun­tries in North­ern Europe (a) Lep­i­doptera insects (b) Non-​Lepidoptera insects © Mam­mals (d) Aves. Species records cat­e­gories for each taxon were iden­ti­fied using Jenks nat­ural breaks clas­si­fi­ca­tion (Jenks, 1967) in QGIS.
Chan­dler et al. in Con­tri­bu­tion of cit­i­zen sci­ence towards inter­na­tional bio­di­ver­sity mon­i­tor­ing, 2016. Bio­log­i­cal Con­ser­va­tion.
Cre­ative Com­mons license (CC BY 4.0)

Bio­di­ver­sity is essen­tial to our well-​being on planet Earth, pro­vid­ing core ecosys­tem ser­vices such as pol­li­na­tion, pest con­trol, and buffer­ing of extreme events. With many con­tin­u­ing pres­sures on land, bio­di­ver­sity is con­stantly threat­ened so there is a need to bet­ter mon­i­tor this valu­able resource glob­ally. But there are many big data gaps in bio­di­ver­sity, often in those places where the need is great­est. Cit­i­zen sci­en­tists can help to fill some of these gaps, both geo­graph­i­cally and tax­o­nom­i­cally,” says Mark Chan­dler of the Earth­watch Insti­tute.

Study results
The study rep­re­sents the most com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey to date of cit­i­zen sci­ence, includ­ing community-​based mon­i­tor­ing. It finds that cit­i­zen sci­en­tists are one of the main sources of data on species occur­rence, in par­tic­u­lar for birds and espe­cially in North Amer­ica and Europe. The researchers argue that such pro­grammes could be strate­gi­cally expanded in order to pro­vide more data on other indi­ca­tors and from coun­tries out­side North Amer­ica and Europe.

The researchers also found that while a lot of citizen-​generated data already exists, less than 10% finds its way into global bio­di­ver­sity mon­i­tor­ing. This bot­tle­neck comes from a lack of resources, issues of inter­op­er­abil­ity, and a need for data repos­i­to­ries. Although the Global Bio­di­ver­sity Infor­ma­tion Facil­ity has been a great suc­cess for curat­ing global species occur­rence data, this rep­re­sents only 1 out of 22 EBVs. The researchers say that it is impor­tant to estab­lish sim­i­lar repos­i­to­ries for other EBVs.

One pos­i­tive find­ing is that cit­i­zen sci­ence com­ple­ments other forms of mon­i­tor­ing such as remote sens­ing. Efforts are now under­way to look at com­bin­ing efforts to get a more com­plete assess­ment of what is hap­pen­ing to biodiversity.

(Source: Inter­na­tional Insti­tute for Applied Sys­tems Analy­sis press release, 03.11.2016)

UN Biodiversity decade
WWF Stop Wildlife Crime
Fight for Flight campaign
End Ivory-funded Terrorism
Support Rewilding Europe
NASA State of Flux

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
Fol­low me on: