South Africa - iNaturalist World Tour

We stay in the Southern Hemisphere for the fifth stop on our iNaturalist World Tour moving from Australia to South Africa. Most of the top contributors are located in the Western Cape, but there are top contributors based in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and to a lesser extent the Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga Highveld and Lowveld.


In mid 2017, the South African National Biodiveristy Institute (SANBI) stopped collaborating with iSpot Nature. Through leadership of @tonyrebelo and his SANBI colleagues, many former iSpot community members from Southern Africa migrated to iNaturalist (we helped these users migrate their iSpot observations with them). Unlike the Bowerbird migration, observations were copied with their original iSpot created date so there's not a big bump in the graph around mid 2017, but the rate of observations per month does tick up at this time as a result of these new participants (this would be more dramatic if the iSpot observations weren't distributed across earlier dates on the graph). The most striking feature of the observations per month graph, however, is the sharp increase in April 2019. This is a result of Cape Town finishing first in the 2019 City Nature Challenge. Thanks to @tonyrebelo for organizing this Cape Town CNC effort and @vynbos leading the global observers leaderboard - this was quite a feat considering April in Mediterranean Cape Town is a relatively dormant season.


South Africa has more plant observations relative to other groups than the other countries we've examined so far. Its also the first country we've examined to have both herps and mammals in the top five categories.


We’ll be back tomorrow with New Zealand!
@tonyrebelo @nicky @colin25 @vynbos @magdastlucia @bushboy @alanhorstmann @rjpretor @alexdreyer @outramps-tanniedi

Posted by loarie loarie, June 28, 2019 15:51

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The Gauteng province needs to up their game :) In this SA contrasts with the previous top countries, where the most populous areas were well (or over) represented.
Gauteng facts: it has at least 13 reserves and a very large humanmade urbanforest , which fortunately focuses on native plants.

Posted by langlands 7 months ago (Flag)
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Make one of Central America, please.

Posted by denilsonoz 7 months ago (Flag)
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And now for something completely different. The top 50 species from South Africa.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=6986&view=species

For the first time on our tour, birds are not the top group in the top 50 species. They are only number 3. In fact, the distribution of species among the top groups is by far the most equitable so far. Vying for top position are plants and mammals, both with 14 species. Birds take up third place with 9 species. Insects and herps both contribute 6 species.

And for the first time on our tour a proper marine species features: 1 mollusc is in the top 50: the Gasflame Seaslug in position # 21.
Although the top 5 groups in the top 50 are also the top 5 groups in observations, the order is not the same: insects feature as #2 in the observations.
Also unusually, species #1 has more than twice as many records as any other organism. The Western Leopard Toad has been the focus of urban rescue attempts in Cape Town, with toads being rescued from rush-hour, rainy traffic during its short breeding explosion, and monitoring of individual toads by their finger-print back patterns has resulted in very many observations, especially as they spend the rest of the year in people's gardens. Of course, the African Elephant is in position 2. Of the Big Five, only the Leopard (#93) does not feature in the top 50.
The low number for birds is probably a consequence of southern Africa having a major spotting birding initiative - SABAP2 - in which photographs are not required, but which occupies the birding community sufficiently to keep them out of trouble.
To date, the most commonly recorded species on our tour is the Honeybee, dipping out only in Canada, but for the first time in South Africa it is indigenous: in fact, there are two subspecies in South Africa: the Cape Bee in the Fynbos Mediterranean region, and the African Bee in the rest of the country. It features as #5, not as high as in USA (#3), but is still our top insect.
With only 1 alien species in the top 50 (the Black Wattle from Australia), South Africa also has the lowest number of alien species in the top 50 so far (although Canada has only 2).

Posted by tonyrebelo 7 months ago (Flag)
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The same 3 insect families are represented in the top 50 of RSA and Australia. Yay for bright, colourful and cosmopolitan families!

Posted by robert_taylor 7 months ago (Flag)
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For the first time on our tour (except perhaps Canada?), the distribution of top recorders mirrors that of biodiversity, with the Cape Flora featuring most strongly, followed by KwaZulu-Natal. The lack of high scorers in the Gauteng and Durban areas is not unexpected, compared to the Cape and other indices of interest (e.g. over 80% of Botanical Society members are from Cape Town, but that is probably for free entry into Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens), although KZN should have a far larger contribution based on botanical and wildlife society membership.
The expectation that the large reserves would feature among the top scorers, is by now thoroughly quashed - thinking a little deeper: people spend relatively short periods in large reserves, and far more time near their homes, as the data from all countries so far supports. The high number of records from reserves is spread among many visitors, most of whom collect more data in their home towns. This pattern is consistent among all countries so far.

Posted by tonyrebelo 7 months ago (Flag)
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Take any observer in the top 50 and look at their top spp list, I suspect it will be topped with plants and insects and a few herps. There won't be much game in it. Taking photos from a car while on safari is how the casuals connect with nature. And there are a lot of them. Hence the presence of big game on the top of the list.

Posted by vynbos 7 months ago (Flag)
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Top 3 insect families: Bees, Butterflies & Dragonflies. But where are the Beetles??? (they do feature in USA: a Ladybeetle). Too many and too difficult to identify to species?

Posted by tonyrebelo 7 months ago (Flag)
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Or too little specialists to ID, Tony...

Posted by martingrimm 7 months ago (Flag)
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Hopliini and Bombyliidae would be high on the list if you go by Tribe or Family alone.

Posted by vynbos 7 months ago (Flag)
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Hopliini (Monkey Beetles) 1007 would be #3 and Bombyliidae (Bee Flies) 544 #28. But Scarabeinae (Dung Beetles) = 745 would be #13, and Apidae (Bees) 1769 would be #2.
But Longhorns (Cerambicidae) with 2150 would top that, and Ladybeetles with 1300 would not put up a bad show. Weevils only get there if we go to Superfamily (1116).
But what is the point of comparing apples with pears?
The Little Five, did not feature at all:
Elephant Shrews (Macroscelididae): 32 observations
Ant Lions (Myrmeleontidae): 625 observations
Rhinoceros Beetles (Dynastinae): 259 observations
Buffalo Weavers (Bubalornis): 37 observations
& Leopard Tortoise: 580 observations

But then neither did the whales:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=6986&taxon_id=152871&view=species

Posted by tonyrebelo 7 months ago (Flag)
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@martingrimm ;-) There is nothing little about our beetle specialists!! Do you mean "too few"?

Posted by tonyrebelo 7 months ago (Flag)
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@vynbos : "Take any observer in the top 50 ..."
But take any species in the top 50 and the top 50 observers will feature prominently. It is not just "casuals" who connect with game!

Posted by tonyrebelo 7 months ago (Flag)
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Congratulations to @tonyrebelo and the entire SA team!

Posted by tsn 7 months ago (Flag)
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@denilsonoz I am not sure when the first Central American nation will come up on the list that @loarie is working through. Scott, is that list posted anywhere as part of this series? - I couldn't find it.

Posted by jdmore 7 months ago (Flag)
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@tonyrebelo: uuups. My english. 🙄

Posted by martingrimm 7 months ago (Flag)
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so many bonus analyses from Tony, this is great!

Posted by rynaturalist 7 months ago (Flag)
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Just checking: we know where the observers are based, but where are the top IDentifiers from?
4 Western Cape (6 groups),
Free State, Limpopo,
USA (Herps), Lithuania (Fungi - esp. Lichens)

SA is the first country on the tour where an identifier is top of more than one group. In fact, 2 identifiers were tops in two groups (mammals-birds and other-molluscs)!
So far, SA is the country most independent of USA identifiers, with only herps featuring. It is not surprizing that our fungi are identified by Europeans: most of our macrofungi are from northern temperate regions associated with urban and silvicultural trees from Europe.

Posted by tonyrebelo 7 months ago (Flag)
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I admit I spent more than a few confused minutes over the statement "April in Mediterranean Cape Town is a relatively dormant season," until I remembered my brain is in the wrong hemisphere. I can't believe you all won the CNC in the California equivalent of October. Congrats!

Posted by arboretum_amy 7 months ago (Flag)
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@jdmore @loarie What i want to say is that the region of Central America has several countries, so, could be great if you do a Inaturalist World Tour of the Whole Region in One day.

Posted by denilsonoz 7 months ago (Flag)
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@arboretum_amy - nor can we believe it. It was the major stumbling block to our participating - what is the point of doing it at the worst possible time of the year? But that then became the point: the challenge! Without CREW we would not have contemplated it. But they have been monitoring rare and threatened species for 16 years, and assured us that even with a third of the flora totally underground, they could do the rest without flowers (and even leaves), and so we took them on. And they did. (see the credits: thanks here)

Posted by tonyrebelo 7 months ago (Flag)
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@tonyrebelo if your first post was referencing monty python - thank you!

Posted by kastani 7 months ago (Flag)
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This is so cool. Well done guys.

Posted by snidge 7 months ago (Flag)
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Nah. We dont have any pythons in Cape Town (not wild one's anyway). Will a monty puffadder do? https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/11087939

Posted by tonyrebelo 6 months ago (Flag)

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