LASAN Releases First Ever List of Charismatic Umbrella Indicator Species for Los Angeles

Posted on 06/21/2021
Acorn woodpecker on top of water fountain with red car in background

LOS ANGELES, CA (June 21, 2021) — Just in time for pollinator week, when we support the busy bees, butterflies 🦋, birds & more that help plants reproduce & are vital to food production, LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) has released its first ever list of 37 charismatic umbrella indicator species for the City of Los Angeles. The list, which was developed in conjunction with the LA Biodiversity Expert Council and includes seven different pollinators, provides a focused set of species that the City can track to assess changes in biodiversity and habitat quality. While a handful of cities around the world and different U.S. government agencies (e.g., National Park Service and US Fish & Wildlife Service) refer to charismatic indicator species that are being tracked, there are no easily accessible or published lists of these species. The City of Los Angeles is breaking new ground by publishing this list in a way that actively engages the public and then using the community-generated data to track and monitor biodiversity over time.  

“Los Angeles may be known as a sprawling metropolis, but it’s the abundance of natural beauty that makes this City such a prolific hotspot for native life,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Our City’s wildlife deserve the strongest protection possible, and the recognition of these species will help us continue to safeguard their well-being.”

LASAN will be tracking the presence and distribution of the indicator species as part of one of the 25 metrics in the LA City Biodiversity Index.[1]  When these species are present, it generally means that the space has good habitat quality and connectivity to other open space and is of sufficient size to host a diversity of species. 

"I'm so pleased our biodiversity team, our LA Library, and our backyard scientists will be hard at work gauging the health of LA's tiniest residents right down to the ecotope level," said Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz, author of the City's biodiversity motion. "With the United Nations Biodiversity Conference of Parties coming up in October, especially for our pollinating migratory creatures, we must look, think and plan beyond the City's borders and begin to act as a global community if we are to successfully heal the planet." [2]

Changes to charismatic wildlife species are always interesting to the general public and are therefore useful for raising awareness.  This summer, LASAN is partnering with the Los Angeles Public Library to encourage Angelenos to observe, photograph and map these species in the L.A. Bioblitz Challenge, a two-month program that continues until August 7. The goals of this collaboration are to enumerate the city’s existing native biodiversity, reduce observation cold spots, and increase the awareness residents have of local wildlife and habitats.

"We are thrilled to collaborate with our friends at LASAN for the inaugural L.A. BioBlitz Challenge," said City Librarian John F. Szabo. "As part of our Neighborhood Science Initiative, this campaign expands our commitment to helping Angelenos learn more about our interconnectedness and reliance on the environment in a fun and engaging way."

Participants as neighborhood scientists help crowdsource data by uploading photos of animals, insects and plants around their homes, neighborhoods, parks, hiking trails and other natural areas using the iNaturalist app. Book lists and other information resources related to biodiversity are also highlighted in the challenge to integrate the understanding of urban biodiversity with how to conserve and protect habitats and the ecosystems essential to life. While the iNaturalist app is free to download, gamecards are also available at any Los Angeles Public Library for a chance to win prizes.  

"Using this kind of biodiversity list to engage the public is an area of emerging interest in the conservation world," said Mas Dojiri, Assistant Director and Chief Scientist for LA Sanitation and Environment. "I am really proud that LASAN is leading the charge on such an exciting and publicly engaging project." 

LASAN will assess observations of these species made on community science platforms, like iNaturalist and eBird, over time to determine if species are thriving or declining, and what measures should be taken to ensure their continued survival. 

"LASAN is very excited to use the LA Bioblitz Challenge to engage with the public about the newly released list of indicator species. We can't wait to see how many observations people make!" said Michelle Barton, biodiversity lead for LASAN.  

[1] LA City Biodiversity Index Metric 1.2a: Percent Open Space with Charismatic Umbrella Species. 
[2] As defined in the LA City Biodiversity Index report, an ecotope is the ecosystem unit by which LA's biodiversity is being measured.