Mexico reaches 5 million observations of plants, animals and fungi in NaturaLista
- In just 10 years, this naturalist social network has become the biggest citizen science initiative in Mexico
Mexico has reached 5 million observations of plants, animals and fungi that inhabit our country, with records of more than 45 thousand species, and with the participation of more than 138 thousand users of the citizen science social network Naturalista (www.naturalista.mx).
A decade ago, the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) became the first partner in a great initiative that was born in California, the iNaturalist network. In just 10 years, this naturalist social network has become the biggest citizen science initiative in Mexico. The CONABIO adopted and adapted the platform to Mexico’s information, including municipalities, protected areas, lists of native, endemic and exotic species, common names in Spanish and in Indigenous languages.
Naturalista fulfills two objectives: to bring society closer to nature; and to increase the knowledge of the species of plants, fungi and animals that live in Mexico. This has been a great effort that benefits everyone equally: experts, scientists, enthusiasts, academics, teachers, students and society in general. Ten years ago it was very hard to get a list of species of a municipality or a protected area. Today, it’s a matter of seconds by just visiting Naturalista.
The support of the Carlos Slim Foundation has been indispensable for the dissemination and consolidation of this initiative. This support has been used to create national networks of tutors who offer training all over Mexico, and of curators, who constantly check the observations made on the platform, identify the species, and contribute to recording the basic information of the thousands of species that live in our country.
How does Naturalista work?
Naturalista is a digital platform with a free mobile application. Participants upload their photographs of fungi, plants and animals, with date and location. Large and small land and marine species are included. The images are automatically identified and reviewed by the participants of the international network and the curators. Audio can also be uploaded, for example, of bird song or frog calls. The network includes different sectors of society: students, rural communities, specialists from different biological disciplines, enthusiasts and anyone interested in discovering the nature surrounding them. This social network allows interaction between users, internal conversations, and everyone learns from everyone else.
The observations are brought together in projects, which can range from a small garden or a median strip in a city, to municipalities, protected areas, states or even countries. Furthermore, once the species have been identified, they are automatically labeled as native species or introduced to the country (exotic species) and with their state of conservation.
Through citizen science, the information collected in Naturalista has created a huge database. It is unquestionably one of the quickest ways to discover the plants, fungi and animals of any municipality, of protected areas, archeological sites, or of anywhere of interest.
The information from Naturalista is used for nature conservation and restoration projects, to improve parks and gardens, to identify agricultural and forestry pests, disease vectors, species at risk, and as an educational tool to promote the knowledge of the species that live in Mexico and around the world.
Here are a few bits of interesting information: Veracruz, Oaxaca and Jalisco have the largest number of species of flora and fauna, with almost 14 thousand recorded species. In terms of participants, Mexico City, the State of Mexico and Quintana Roo are in front with more than 13 thousand naturalists. Explore and discover the natural riches of each state in the project: “Biodiversity of Mexico (State by State)”
In Naturalista you can get to know the “extreme naturalists” of each state and of each municipality. The most outstanding users include Carlos Dominguez-Rodriguez (@blakesito), with the highest number of observations (73,600), Juan Cruzado Cortes (@juancruzado) with the highest number of recorded species (5,343) and Ivan Resendiz Cruz (@ivanresendizcruz) as expert identifier, with the highest number of identifications in Naturalista (207,803).
In Naturalista you can also visit the 5,650 projects to explore and discover the diversity of flora and fauna that live in the states, municipalities, protected natural areas, archeological zones, botanical gardens, magical towns, urban and rural areas, parks and forests, museums, schools and universities. There are also projects that combine a location with a specific group of plants or animals (for example, birds of the El Chico National Park).
In 2017, an Urban Naturalist Challenge was created, in which, for 3 days in May, friendly competition is promoted between cities in Naturalista. Last year, we started a second phase of this initiative in October to cover the rainy season.
Last year, as part of the National Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators (ENCUSP), the CONABIO created a site with information about pollination, native plants, pollinators and gardens for pollinators. To date, around 70 gardens have been registered, and the garden plants and their pollinators are being recorded on the Naturalista platform https://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/poliniza
At the same time as Naturalista, the CONABIO developed the Enciclovida platform (Enciclovida.mx), which contains the information from the National Biodiversity System (SNIB), taken from hundreds of scientific collections with millions of records of locations of species in Mexico. Enciclovida is also connected to information from two citizen science platforms, AverAves and Naturalista, and other platforms (Tropics of the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Cornell University’s Macaulay Library, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, and Wikipedia in Spanish), which provide photographs, videos, sounds, descriptions, scientific names and common names, maps, etc. Naturalista and Enciclovida are interconnected; the first is “participative”, providing citizen science records to the latter, and the latter is “for consultation” and provides species descriptions to the former.
Thanks to these platforms, for the first time in history, it is possible to contextualize education regionally on a municipal scale. Teachers and students can visualize the species of plants, fungi and animals where they live and find out about native, endemic and exotic species, as well as those at risk, etc. The municipal and state authorities can contribute to the conservation and sustainable management of priority species in their municipality or state. Additionally, if there is insufficient information in the municipality or in the area of interest, society can gather the information by uploading photographs to the site. These developments come at the right time to allow society to be more participative in the discovery, sustainable management and conservation of the amazing biological riches that live in our country. We can all be naturalists and participate by collecting information about nature in Mexico.
If you want to join this community and help to discover more about nature in Mexico, register at www.naturalista.mx or download the mobile application iNaturalist