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Using citizen science data to identify the sensitivity of species to human land use
- Todd, Brian D., Rose, Jonathan P., Price, Steven J., Dorcas, Michael E.
- Conservation biology 2016 v.30 no.6 pp. 1266-1276
- amphibians, biodiversity, forests, habitats, humans, land use, landscapes, rare species, reptiles, risk, savannas, scientists, wetlands, North Carolina, South Carolina
- Conservation practitioners must contend with an increasing array of threats that affect biodiversity. Citizen scientists can provide timely and expansive information for addressing these threats across large scales, but their data may contain sampling biases. We used randomization procedures to account for possible sampling biases in opportunistically reported citizen science data to identify species’ sensitivities to human land use. We analyzed 21,044 records of 143 native reptile and amphibian species reported to the Carolina Herp Atlas from North Carolina and South Carolina between 1 January 1990 and 12 July 2014. Sensitive species significantly associated with natural landscapes were 3.4 times more likely to be legally protected or treated as of conservation concern by state resource agencies than less sensitive species significantly associated with human‐dominated landscapes. Many of the species significantly associated with natural landscapes occurred primarily in habitats that had been nearly eradicated or otherwise altered in the Carolinas, including isolated wetlands, longleaf pine savannas, and Appalachian forests. Rare species with few reports were more likely to be associated with natural landscapes and 3.2 times more likely to be legally protected or treated as of conservation concern than species with at least 20 reported occurrences. Our results suggest that opportunistically reported citizen science data can be used to identify sensitive species and that species currently restricted primarily to natural landscapes are likely at greatest risk of decline from future losses of natural habitat. Our approach demonstrates the usefulness of citizen science data in prioritizing conservation and in helping practitioners address species declines and extinctions at large extents.