Rapidly mapping fire effects on biodiversity at a large-scale using citizen science.

Affiliation

Kirchhoff C(1), Callaghan CT(2), Keith DA(3), Indiarto D(4), Taseski G(5), Ooi MKJ(6), Le Breton TD(6), Mesaglio T(5), Kingsford RT(5), Cornwell WK(2).
Author information:
(1)Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia; Ecology & Evolution Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
(3)Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia; NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment, Sydney, NSW, Australia; Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, Wollongong, NSW, Australia.
(4)Ecology & Evolution Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
(5)Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
(6)Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia; Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, Wollongong, NSW, Australia.

Abstract

The unprecedented scale of the 2019-2020 eastern Australian bushfires exemplifies the challenges that scientists and conservation biologists face monitoring the effects on biodiversity in the aftermath of large-scale environmental disturbances. After a large-scale disturbance, conservation policy and management actions need to be both timely and informed by data. By working with the public, often widely spread out over such disturbed areas, citizen science offers a unique opportunity to collect data on biodiversity responses at the appropriate scale. We detail a citizen science project, hosted through iNaturalist, launched shortly after the 2019-2020 bushfire season in eastern Australia. It rapidly (1) provided accurate data on fire severity, relevant to future recovery; and (2) delivered data on a wide range (mosses to mammals) of biodiversity responses at a scale that matched the geographic extent of these fires.