Patterns of contribution to citizen science biodiversity projects increase understanding of volunteers' recording behaviour

TitlePatterns of contribution to citizen science biodiversity projects increase understanding of volunteers' recording behaviour
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBoakes, EH, Gliozzo, G, Seymour, V, Harvey, MC, Smith, C, Roy, DB, Haklay, M
JournalScientific Reports
Volume6
Abstract

The often opportunistic nature of biological recording via citizen science leads to taxonomic, spatial and temporal biases which add uncertainty to biodiversity estimates. However, such biases may also give valuable insight into volunteers' recording behaviour. Using Greater London as a case-study we examined the composition of three citizen science datasets-from Greenspace Information for Greater London CIC, iSpot and iRecord - with respect to recorder contribution and spatial and taxonomic biases, i.e. when, where and what volunteers record. We found most volunteers contributed few records and were active for just one day. Each dataset had its own taxonomic and spatial signature suggesting that volunteers' personal recording preferences may attract them towards particular schemes. There were also patterns across datasets: species' abundance and ease of identification were positively associated with number of records, as was plant height. We found clear hotspots of recording activity, the 10 most popular sites containing open water. We note that biases are accrued as part of the recording process (e.g. species' detectability) as well as from volunteer preferences. An increased understanding of volunteer behaviour gained from analysing the composition of records could thus enhance the fit between volunteers' interests and the needs of scientific projects.

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