Content Author Object Flagger Flag Created Reason Resolved by Resolution
red spruce (Picea rubens) charlie Fri, 05 Jul 2019 14:33:08 +0000

this should not be obscured, no conceivable conservation benefit and Ontario NHI did not provide an explanation for doing this

mikeburrell

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Comments

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let's continue discussion in one place, on the existing flag: https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/364063

Posted by bouteloua 8 months ago (Flag)
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i'd rather keep an open flag, as i don't feel it should have been resolved. Is there a way to re-open the other one?

Posted by charlie 8 months ago (Flag)
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not by curators

Posted by bouteloua 8 months ago (Flag)
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it also seems like i didn't get a notification when that flag was resolved. but maybe i somehow missed it?

Posted by charlie 8 months ago (Flag)
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you had subscribed to it?

Posted by bouteloua 8 months ago (Flag)
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ah, maybe that's right, i probably didn't and thought i did :)

Posted by charlie 8 months ago (Flag)
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NHIC has received an official request to unobscure and chosen to keep the geoprivacy as obscured. Comments: Status and rarity not well documented; known from a few well-known sites (iNaturalist gives a skewed sense of its prevalance because of a single user reporting lots of observations) and likely to be targeted at least by "listers" who may disturb them.

Posted by mikeburrell 7 months ago (Flag)
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@mikeburrell Thanks!

I don’t feel like this really addresses why we have suggested that Red Spruce should not be obscured. Yes, it is rare. Yes, people may go look for them. I would never have said otherwise. The only other bit is:

"likely to be targeted at least by "listers" who may disturb them"

HOW are "listers" going to disturb them? It’s a spruce tree, not a little plant that you can trample or pick. On top of that its an obscure species that is not easily identifiable, and one that is already easy to find (there is literally a trail in Algonquin Park called the Red Spruce side trail). I simply cannot see what the concern is from open iNat data increasing the number of enthusiasts going to visit them. Some possibilities:

- Seed collection. Spruces produce large quantities of small seeds. These are inaccessible when on the tree, and no way can anyone actually find a substantial proportion of the seeds present once they fall out of the cones
- Trampling of smaller individuals. Are tree enthusiasts looking specifically for Red Spruce going to carelessly trample them underfoot? I find this highly unlikely. People generally stick to trails between shrubs/trees unless they have some specific reason not to. In any case, spruces grow fast and are prickly. It only takes I’d guess a year or two until they are big enough that its more comfortable to walk around than over.
- Soil compaction. This might be a concern if there were only a few trees left. When there are hundreds (thousands?), no way. Maybe for one or two of the most accessible trees it might weaken them a bit. But ultimately does not seem like a reasonable justification for hiding all the data
- Introduction of invasive species (e.g. tracking them in on muddy shoes) - I can see how this could maybe happen? But would only be an additional concern for locations that are not already on public land with frequent recreational use. And regardless you're then getting to the point of just trying to discourage people from visiting any high-quality natural areas, and that makes me really uncomfortable. Treating our natural areas like museum back-rooms where nobody is supposed to go or even know what's in them is not the way to conserve them long-term. Somewhere really unique like some of the fens on the Bruce Peninsula, or certain alvars, or some prairie remnants... possibly justified in some cases. Forests in Central/Eastern Ontario that happen to have one common tree species that is rare here at the edge of its range - no.
- Something else I haven’t thought of?

This is the kind of explanation/scenario I was looking for. And it feels like it was just completely glossed over? The reasonable possibilities I see from having open locations for this species, over the next x years range from best to worst:

- Spurring some more interest in the species that improves conservation of it, and/or data availability allowing conservation of specific local populations*
- No important effect
- A couple of accessible populations of Red Spruce have slightly worn trails leading to them, a few young trees get trampled, and soil compaction means that a couple trees decline somewhere ahead of their time. Ultimately does not affect the population to any measurable degree

The scenario where having open locations on iNat leads to even local population declines, tree deaths, etc. seems ridiculously implausible to me. Let alone at a broader scale - I assume that most Ontario Red Spruce occurs in remote areas of Algonquin Park and may never be positively identified by anyone. And again, there has been a short marked trail leading to labelled Red Spruce in Algonquin for a long time. Is there any reason to think this has caused any problems whatsoever?

But maybe I’m missing something.

*For example, my local conservation authority is now collecting data from iNaturalist to some degree. They have no way of accessing hidden coordinates. I'm at a private consultant and look at iNaturalist data around our projects. If it's obscured I will miss it and might have no idea that there is a local population of Red Spruce (for instance) to consider. A lot of this data doesn't seem to shop up in the NHIC make-a-map (just looked for a couple of my observations that are a year or two old and they didn't show up), and the data there is still obscured, albeit to a lesser degree. Data requests don't always happen, or arrive in a timely fashion (I had one request to MNRF for SAR records response over 11 months after I sent it!).

Posted by reuvenm 7 months ago (Flag)
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Hi Reuven,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. This is exactly the sort of rationale we expected to receive when evaluating requests for unobscuring but which we unfortunately didn't receive for this one. Our botanists have discussed your points and have agreed to change the geoprivacy to open.

Mike

Posted by mikeburrell 7 months ago (Flag)
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@owenclarkin and @swampy just want you to be aware of this change since you have the vast majority of Ontario iNaturalist records of this species. Your records which have been obscured for this species will be open (will give you until the end of today before I make the change). If you'd like them to stay obscured, please update the geoprivacy for the records. If you don't know how to do this in bulk, please let me know.

Posted by mikeburrell 7 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks Mike!

I don't know that it's really possible for me to provide much rationale with an initial request in most cases. What I'm saying with the request is "I can't think of any reason this should be obscured". If I could think of a reason, I wouldn't be making the request. For some species there might be some issue that is particularly salient that I can talk about proactively... but for something like Red Spruce I had zero idea where the concern even was. It feels pretty obvious to me that large trees need to be extremely rare (like, no more than a couple of dozen trees) or have some other exceptional circumstance for there to be any real threat.

It seems like the response back should be either "We can't think of a reason either" or "Here's the reason(s) we think it should be obscured". That second is basically what happened here although it's not clear to me whether they had actually thought about it beyond a really cursory level.

Then I can respond with either "Good point" or "Here's why I don't think that's a good point".

Posted by reuvenm 7 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks all.

@mikeburrell i don't really know why you say 'This is exactly the sort of rationale we expected to receive when evaluating requests for unobscuring but which we unfortunately didn't receive for this one. ' as I'd basially said the same thing as was said by Reuvenm above, maybe in a shorter post on the forum, but i think it's kind of a confusing comment. But, in any event, thanks for listening and resolving the issue. We track the range of Red Spruce in Vermont to help understand the effects of past logging, climate change, acid rain and other factors, and having the range data in other areas is important to understand the distribution of the species overall.

Have you ever encountered a conifer lister? Especially looking for something locally rare but common not far away I suppose maybe it exists but anyone that interested in a niche thing like that i would imagine would know enough not to stomp them. And... i wish we had more interest in red spruce than what we do have.

Posted by charlie 7 months ago (Flag)
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I agree with reuvenm, conservation status alone is not a valid reason for mass obscuring, and the onus is on the party who wants to obscure to provide a reason it should become obscured. Conservation status is a reasonable starting point, but very flawed.

Posted by bouteloua 7 months ago (Flag)
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@charlie I have gone a little out of my way to see Red Spruce in Ontario! Before I used iNat. Southern Ontario is pquite populous (almost 13 million people) so even pretty niche things can get a fair bit of attention. There are definitely individual plants on iNat that have had 5+ people independently photograph the same individual.

Posted by reuvenm 7 months ago (Flag)

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