What is the difference between an “observation cold spot” and a “biodiversity cold spot”? It is easy to confuse the terms, but they are two very different scientific issues.
A “biodiversity cold spot” is an area with a limited variety of living things, like plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria.
On the other hand, an “observation cold spot” is an area lacking scientific data. In other words, more information is needed to understand the environment and the species that live there. This can occur even in biodiversity hotspots like L.A.
In the L.A. BioBlitz Challenge, one of the goals is to reduce the number of cold spots in the city. On the project website, an observation heat map with colored pixels or grid squares in various shades of white and gray is shown to signify low to no observation data of plants, fungi, and wildlife.
Most of these neighborhood areas are occupied by various types of residential and commercial properties like houses, storefronts, shopping centers, gas stations, and apartment buildings. While buildings occupy these spaces, it does not mean there is no biodiversity existing in and around these structures.
We tend to associate animals, plants, and insects with open spaces, parks, natural areas, and hiking trails. The truth is, they can also be observed around our homes and workplaces. There is a lot more life in and around our environments than we are aware of—we just need to look for it and understand humans have a physical and symbiotic relationship with nature.
To get started, you can look at the window sills, ceiling corners, or light fixtures. These are often favorite hangouts for spiders and various creatures. If you have planters or potted plants in or around your garden, you may find some other interesting lifeforms, such as roly-polies, worms, or even house centipedes. You also can watch your porch light or street lamps at night for moths and flying insects. As they gather near the light, take time to photograph them; you will be amazed by the variety of shapes, colors, and patterns you find. Oftentimes, you will have a chance to witness other “unexpected guests,” such as praying mantises, crickets, lizards, and even bats.
If you want to really kick up your participation in the L.A. BioBlitz Challenge, find a cold spot or gray pixel on the observation heat map around your home, school, or office and see if there's a place where you can go and observe the nature that is there safely.
The L.A. Bioblitz Challenge team has managed to upload pictures to the iNaturalist app of an American robin, a western bluebird, and a black phoebe while visiting Eagle Rock Park. The area we explored was a gray pixel on the heat map.
In the City of L.A., biodiversity is truly everywhere, even in and around your home. Take a moment to escape the hustle and trappings of the day, and find nature in your surroundings. Better yet, explore a cold spot near you. You may be pleasantly surprised.
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.