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L.A. BioBlitz Challenge: First Year Accomplishments

Vivienne Byrd, Librarian III, Exploration & Creativity Department,
Collage of insects, reptiles and animals observed in first L.A. BioBlitz Challenge
Thank you, and join us again next year for the L.A. BioBlitz Challenge!

After a summer of exploring, observing, and connecting with wildlife in the city of Los Angeles, a global biodiversity hotspot, the first L.A. BioBlitz Challenge concluded with outstanding results. Thank you to all the volunteers citywide who participated and supported this tremendous success.

Over eight weeks, 14,796 observations of animals, insects, and plants were recorded and shared on the iNaturalist app which is used to map and crowdsource research-grade information. These data points will provide biodiversity researchers in the city's L.A. Sanitation and Environment agency with important insights on the current state and distribution of biodiversity. The key findings include:

  • 29 of the 38 indicator species were identified and will be used to help infer the condition of habitats across the city. Identifications included the spotted towhee, bobcat and the endangered El Segundo blue butterfly.
  • 3 of the most observed indicator species were: the monarch butterfly, red-tailed hawk, and great blue heron.
  • 9 indicator species not identified were:
    • Coachwhip snake
    • Behr's metalmark
    • Black-bellied salamander
    • Bramble green hairstreak
    • Greater roadrunner
    • Hooded merganser
    • Northern harrier
    • Sara orangetip
    • Western meadowlark

  • One of the most interesting species observed was the California pink glow worm. These creatures are actually fireflies that emit bright green light despite the fact that they are called glow worms.
  • 505 of 3,182 observation cold spots were turned hot in the citywide grid of 8,275, an important goal of the project. Participants successfully turned 16 percent of all cold spots on the observation heat map from gray to green.
  • 1,555 observations were made in former cold spots with one near Benedict Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains having an impressive 92 observations recorded.
  • 309 observations were made in Bette Davis Park near the Los Angeles River which had the greatest number of observations in any location across the city.

Invasive plant species like fountain grass were also identified, which can easily spread across landscapes, out-competing native vegetation. Fountain grass is best to avoid planting and when found, to remove it from yards, parks, and open space to protect native species.

Rainbow colored Bar graph listing 29 of the 38 indicator species observed during the first L.A. BioBlitz Challenge from June 7 to August 7, 2021.
Pictured: Bar graph listing 29 of the 38 indicator species observed during the first L.A. BioBlitz Challenge from June 7 to August 7, 2021

In terms of the next steps, the researchers and scientists in L.A. Sanitation and Environment will use the data collected to perform measurements in the metrics for the L.A. City Biodiversity Index. The data will help reveal the complexity and rich biodiversity around the city. It will also serve as a baseline for future research and studies to improve and protect local ecosystems and wildlife habitats in the city of Los Angeles.

We encourage you to continue to make and share observations around your home and neighborhood and join the effort in raising awareness with family and friends about the incredible biodiversity that exists here in this global hotspot. We hope that this challenge has helped you realize that biodiversity is precious and that we can all take steps to protect, preserve and enhance it in our gardens, schools, workplaces, and public areas.

Protecting and enhancing urban biodiversity will lead to a more sustainable, resilient city in the face of climate change. With simple, intentional, volunteer actions, Angelenos can create and support a resilient urban oasis for humans and wildlife to coexist.

We enjoyed the time together on this project, and really appreciate the truly fantastic participants and wide-ranging community partners from many parts of the city. Thank you, and join us again next year for the L.A. BioBlitz Challenge!

#LABioBlitz and #LAPLNeiSci

This article was co-written with Michelle Barton.

Michelle is an Environmental Specialist with the City of Los Angeles, Department of Sanitation & Environment. Michelle leads LASAN's biodiversity program. Michelle received her B.S. in Biology from UCLA and her M.S. in Biology from CSULB.