By PATRICIA SIMPSON
April was a busy month in Mission Trails Regional Park for “iNatters” (a nickname for people submitting observations of nature to the online database iNaturalist.org). Instead of picking one observation from among the 4,923 submissions, I thought I would tell you a little about all of them. There is a good reason for the plethora of data this month: The City Nature Challenge (CNC) was held April 26-29. Cities across the globe competed to get the most observations, the most observers, and the most species. San Diego County came in fifth worldwide for the first two categories and sixth for the number of species. Quite impressive!
Events like these are crucial for scientists. It is a great crowd-sourcing method where regular nature enthusiasts like us, camera or phone in hand, can indulge in “hunting” for plants, birds and other critters that roam our neighborhoods and parks. Who needs “Pokémon Go” when you have iNaturalist!
The observations made in Mission Trails during the four days of the CNC account for 72% of all April observations in the park. That’s a big boost in data for MTRP and that is just what scientists need: more data. Of all the observations in San Diego County during the CNC, just over 9% were in MTRP. But the number that is more telling is that observations from the park included almost 22% of all species found in the county, a testament to the biodiversity the park holds.
Here is a breakdown of number of species by class: 410 species of plants, 108 insects, 69 birds, 20 fungi/lichen, 17 arachnids, 13 amphibians and reptiles, 10 mammals, six mollusks, and two fish.
Looking at the data, a few things stand out. Of the 410 species of plants, 281 are native, which is good news for the biodiversity of the park. Native plants are growing strong. For mollusks, the picture is not as bright with 100% of the species reported being non-native. From previous iNat data, we know the park has native snails and slugs so it could mean that next year’s CNC naturalists should try harder to find them, or it could mean the impact of the alien population is affecting the native population in a negative way. Let’s hope it is the former.
Observers also found 21 listed species (from “vulnerable” to “critically imperiled” or “seriously threatened” according to Nature Serve and California Native Plant Society), a reminder of how important nature preserves such as MTRP are to some of our most vulnerable earthlings.
Since the CNC is held every year at around the same time, over time scientists can have a better understanding of the status of certain areas or certain species. Thanks to everyone who contributed data during the CNC and chose MTRP as your “hunting” ground.
— Patricia Simpson is a trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park.