The Sidewalk Plants ((EN) / Stoepplanten (NL) citizen science project involves citizens monitoring plant species growing around their home, neighborhood or town as a whole. The goals is to find out what plant communities are most succesful, what biodiversity hotspots exist within the urban ecosystem and how their location can be explained by anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic factors. We believe this will generate new knowledge and understanding of plants in citizens and for science. The project will be easy to participate in and as inclusive as possible. Participants of all ages are welcome to participate only once or many times and potentially become part of the on- and offline Stoepplanten citizen science community. During this project we want all the monitoring data to be open access and available for citizens to play with. We want to encourage citizens to come up with their own research questions and coach or enable them to work with the data to potentially answer these questions. We also aim for citizens to become more engaged with their direct environment and observe the cities street management, research what is done and to what effect so they can be empowered to take action within their municipality. They could then write an informed petition or get politically active in any way to potentially change street management for more sustainable, biodiverse and green cities and towns. The aim is also to increase the interest for plants and combat plant blindness. The research questions therefore include the motivation, change in attitude towards plants, knowledge about plants in the participating citizen scientists. Along the development of this citizen science project we aim to organize focus groups including scientists, citizen scientists and policy makers to constantly improve our practices. This citizen science project is the key endeavor of a PhD project. Therefore, research output on both urban plant communities and citizen science will be published. Citizen scientist contributions will be acknowledged appropriately in all publications.
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The Sidewalk Plants (EN) / Stoepplanten (NL) citizen science project strives to increase interest for urban plants and plants in general through monitoring the effect of anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic factors on urban sidewalk plant species communities. The plants in our environment are often overlooked and underappreciated. This plant blindness can be explained by a lack of interest in and focus on plant science in education in favour of animals. However, most life on earth, including humans, depend mainly on plants for food and shelter. Consequently, it is important for society to acknowledge the importance of plants and combat plant blindness. City sidewalk plant communities survive despite the extreme stress factors of urban environments, for instance, drought, access to little soil, high levels of manual disturbance and herbicides. Therefore, these plants are highly adaptable and could show how plants change and survive in extreme environments. Previous studies in urban ecology have shown that plant species richness, and anthropogenic factors can best explain biodiversity. These factors and their role in plant species composition, richness and diversity needs further study to infer which species or species communities are highly successful in these challenging urban environments. To understand the ecology of urban plant communities could help us design sustainable and biodiverse green cities in the future.
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How to participate
The project will start in spring of 2021 and most likely be run using an existing monitoring app and website like iObs, iNaturalist or waarneming.nl. To keep the project as inclusive as possible we are also considering the possibility of printing out and sending in monitoring forms by mail or email. Only monitoring data from the Netherlands and Belgium will be included. Check our website (www.stoepplantjes.nl), instagram, twitter or facebook (@stoepplantjes) for the latest news or subscribe to the Hortus botanicus Leiden newsletter to get monthly updates (https://subscribe.mailinglijst.nl/?l=109553&e=).
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Basic equipment includes a phone or tablet with internet access. Personal phones or tablets with a camera can be used for this project. Plants can be identified using a plant guide or plant identification app (free) like PictureThis, LeafSnap or NatureID. The observation and identification with a picture of the plant can then be uploaded to a platform like iObs, iNaturalist or waarneming.nl via their app or website. There will also be an online platform for discourse and community buidling with citizens and experts.
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