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Investigating the potential of social media and citizen science data to track changes in species' distributions

O'Neill, D. ORCID:, Häkkinen, H. ORCID:, Neumann, J. ORCID:, Shaffrey, L. ORCID:, Cheffings, C., Norris, K. and Pettorelli, N. ORCID: (2023) Investigating the potential of social media and citizen science data to track changes in species' distributions. Ecology and Evolution, 13 (5). e10063. ISSN 2045-7758

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/ece3.10063


How to best track species as they rapidly alter their distributions in response to climate change has become a key scientific priority. Information on species distributions is derived from biological records, which tend to be primarily sourced from traditional recording schemes, but increasingly also by citizen science initiatives and social media platforms, with biological recording having become more accessible to the general public. To date, however, our understanding of the respective potential of social media and citizen science to complement the information gathered by traditional recording schemes remains limited, particularly when it comes to tracking species on the move with climate change. To address this gap, we investigated how species occurrence observations vary between different sources and to what extent traditional, citizen science, and social media records are complementary, using the Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) in Britain as a case study. Banded Demoiselle occurrences were extracted from citizen science initiatives (iRecord and iNaturalist) and social media platforms (Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter), and compared with traditional records primarily sourced from the British Dragonfly Society. Our results showed that species presence maps differ between record types, with 61% of the citizen science, 58% of the traditional, and 49% of the social media observations being unique to that data type. Banded Demoiselle habitat suitability maps differed most according to traditional and social media projections, with traditional and citizen science being the most consistent. We conclude that (i) social media records provide insights into the Banded Demoiselle distribution and habitat preference that are different from, and complementary to, the insights gathered from traditional recording schemes and citizen science initiatives; (ii) predicted habitat suitability maps that ignore information from social media records can substantially underestimate (by over 3500 km2 in the case of the Banded Demoiselle) potential suitable habitat availability.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:111977


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