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Improving citizen science data for long-term monitoring of plant species


van Strien, Arco J.; van Zweden, Jelle S.; Sparrius, Laurens B.; Odé, Baudewijn (2022), Improving citizen science data for long-term monitoring of plant species, Dryad, Dataset,


In 2012, a new volunteer-based recording scheme for vascular plants was launched in the Netherlands. Its purpose is to track the changes in the number of occupied 1-km grid cells for as many native plant species as possible between survey rounds of 8 years. We did not prescribe a strict field protocol to minimize variation in observer effort, but instead chose to statistically correct for this variation with occupancy models. These models require replicated visits to a grid cell per season, which was implemented by having two independent observers survey grid cells and record all plant species observed. Now that a first survey round has ended (2012–2019), we evaluate our approach, i.e. we tested whether the scheme has the potential to produce proper trend estimates. The number of occupied grid cells in the first round was estimated per species, using an occupancy model with day of year, visit duration and observer experience as covariates for detection. The detection probability, which was 0.43 on average, strongly depended on visit duration and day of year. It was possible to estimate the number of occupied grid cells quite precisely for several hundreds of species, such that the statistical power is expected to be high enough to detect changes of 10% between survey rounds. For rare species, however, the power to detect changes is expected to be quite low. We conclude that the approach works well, but further improvements are suggested.


A total of 2851 sites (1 x 1 square km grid cells) were visited by (groups of) observers between 2012 and 2019. During a visit, the observers recorded all vascular plant species that they detected, as well as some basic information about the visit.