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What Are Indicator Species?

Vivienne Byrd, Librarian III, Exploration & Creativity Department,
LA Bio Blitz image
The L.A. BioBlitz Challenge highlights 38 indicator species to increase public awareness of wildlife and their habitats, and to encourage Angelenos to photograph and map these species as well as others

There are 38 special species listed on the L.A. BioBlitz Challenge website. This is not just a random selection of flora and fauna; they are noted as “indicator species.” When these species are present, they help demonstrate that the local area provides a good habitat for the species to live.

Although the City of Los Angeles is home to a large variety of life, decades of urban development have fragmented habitats and natural landscapes. Urbanization and human activities have led to increased pollution. Climate change has contributed to extreme weather events and wildfires. The spread of invasive species has had consequences with the decline of biodiversity and quality environments.

To help manage these challenges and inform decision-making, conservationists and city environmental specialists decided to track various types of indicator species. They developed this list in partnership with local researchers and scientists who are very familiar with local plants and wildlife. They are acutely aware of distribution patterns, environmental threats, and relationships between species, and created this focused list to monitor and track over time.

These indicator species provide valuable information on how to combat pollution and restore environments for plants and animal communities. They should have the ability to respond positively to newly created or restored habitats, just as this wildlife would likely stop using degraded or unsuitable ones. Changes in the abundance or distribution of these species also help researchers monitor environmental changes that can impact entire ecosystems.

The L.A. BioBlitz Challenge highlights these 38 indicator species to increase public awareness of wildlife and their habitats, and to encourage Angelenos to photograph and map these species as well as others. To learn more about each indicator species and how you can help the researchers and scientists at the Biodiversity Team of L.A. Sanitation and Environment observe and map wildlife, visit L.A. BioBlitz Challenge. Happy exploring, observing, and connecting!


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.


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