Exploring the potential of an online platform for citizen science-based ecological monitoring of plant- and wildlife on the high-Arctic Archipelago Svalbard
Citizen science is increasingly used to include in ecological monitoring over the past three decades. Web-based applications or smart phones enable citizens to record observations or experiences at larger temporal and spatial scale and provide opportunities for a larger number of citizens to participate in mapping observations. Citizen science can also be used to record, or map observed and experienced ecological changes. The purpose of this thesis is to understand how a warming climate affects plants- and wildlife in the high-Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard through the eyes of citizens that are residing or visiting the islands. To examine the kind of ecological phenomena that citizens are observing on Svalbard, I used a dedicated digital platform to register local observations and experiences on how plant- and wildlife species are impacted by climate change. Residents and visitors were invited to share their knowledge and observations about how the environment is changing in Svalbard including nine categories, where my focus was primarily on plant- and wildlife. The online PPGIS survey had an overall response rate of 11% for mapping all kinds of environmental changes, wherein 21 of the respondents mapped 75 observations on plants- and wildlife covering most of the archipelago. The observations were divided into six categories: invertebrates, vegetation, marine mammals, terrestrial mammals, birds, and other. The experienced changes in plants- and wildlife were compared to existing ecological monitoring by using five ecological phenomena: spatial distribution, abundance, behaviour, phenology, and impacts of abnormal events. I assess how and in what way citizen science as an approach, using an online citizen science platform, can contribute to and complement traditional ecological monitoring. I found two-thirds of the observations to focus on presence of the species or the abundance. Most were observations of charismatic species without references to any potential causal mechanisms of change. I found that citizen science is most likely to contribute to the monitoring of species ecology by expanding the spatial scale of plant- and wildlife observations. However, the limited amount of data in this thesis makes it difficult to conclude on the full potential and possibilities of using citizen science in ecological monitoring.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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