Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 391–401 | Cite as

Tracking the long-term dynamics of plant diversity in Northeast Spain with a network of volunteers and rangers

  • Maria Begoña GarcíaEmail author
  • Jose Luis Silva
  • Pablo Tejero
  • Iker Pardo
  • Daniel Gómez
Original Article


Scientific projects can greatly benefit from the participation of non-professionals in identifying environmental changes at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. In 2010, we launched a long-term project in Northeast Spain (MONITO) that has recruited more than 200 volunteers and rangers. Participants monitor regional-species distribution and local-population abundance for a wide variety of plant species: threatened, rare, and indicators of climatic change or habitats of interest. At the local abundance level (the novel “Adopt-a-plant” program), they carry out annual censuses of population abundance for 10 years at least, to eventually estimate standard trends and future vulnerability. In order to show the functional structure of the network and facilitate implementation elsewhere, we evaluate the key aspects of MONITO, which currently involves 183 single-species or multi-species monitoring sites. We use the participant database, an anonymous survey, and the analyses of time invested in fieldwork training, participant turnover, and scientific assessment of monitoring quality. No significant differences were found between volunteers and rangers regarding time invested per monitoring site, quality of data collected, or primary motivation (“participating in a real scientific experience”). Volunteers fit better the local abundance level and reach higher satisfaction and learning. Rangers contribute more to the distribution level and present a higher turnover throughout the monitoring period. MONITO represents a successful way of tracking real biodiversity changes and connecting scientific research to public outreach. Mentoring is a key element of this project, together with a socially integrative (participants with and without experience) and methodologically complementary approach.


Citizen science Population trends Data quality LTER Vulnerable plant species Species and habitats of community interest 



We are very grateful to all participants for believing in this LTER project and “adopting” plants. Their enthusiasm in this adventure is our inspiration to keep going. We thank P. Errea for assistance with herbarium databases, P. Bravo and P. Sánchez for field assistance, M. Pizarro for making our life easier with the network database, and B. Valero and L. Hoppe for linguistic corrections. We are very grateful to the staff of the Regional Government of Aragón (M. Alcántara, J. Fauré, D. Guzmán, M. Montes, V. Sanz, E Villagrasa), numerous range coordinators for facilitating the participation of rangers, as well as C. Fabregat, D. Goñi, J. Guerrero, S. López, J. Puente, and G. Sanz, for helping with the location of some populations. Two anonymous reviewers, T. Dirnböck and C. Reyer provided many suggestions to improve the manuscript.

Funding information

The study was funded by RESECOM (European project LIFE12 NAT/ES/000180) and also DYNBIO (OAPN Project, Ref. 1656) and PERDIVER (BBVA Foundation).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC)ZaragozaSpain

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