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City Nature Challenge 2021: Celebrating Biodiversity

Baltimore had a strong showing in the 2021 City Nature Challenge, an annual competition that celebrates local biodiversity.

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We recently wrapped up our fourth City Nature Challenge, an annual event where community scientists around the world compete to see which city can find and document the most plant and animal species. From April 30 to May 3, community scientists observed wildlife, took photos of the plants and animals they found, and uploaded them to nature app iNaturalist. On May 10, the results were announced, and Baltimore-area residents did an incredible job showcasing our city's natural wonders to the world! Here are the Baltimore highlights from this year's competition:

  • Total observations: 13,421
  • Total species observed: 1,917
  • Total observers: 854
  • Most commonly reported plant species: common blue violet
  • Most commonly reported animal species: Northern cardinal

This is the highest number of observations and species identified in Baltimore since we began participating in the challenge in 2018! Additionally, 47% of verifiable observations (those with photo or audio evidence) obtained research-grade status, helping scientists long after the end of the challenge.

Visit iNaturalist's Baltimore page to see some of the brilliant biodiversity that was recorded during the challenge.

Two Children and One Adult Using Binoculars to Birdwatch at Masonville Cove

City Nature Challenge presents an opportunity for Baltimore-area residents to get nerdy with nature, connect with the local flora and fauna, and support scientific research—but it's also a celebration of the biodiversity found all around us.

Biodiversity is exactly what is sounds like—the variety ("diversity") of life ("bio") on Earth, from microscopic bacteria and fungi to human beings and all the organisms in between. Every ecosystem is like an intricate web of biodiversity, with organisms and species relying on each other and working together in a delicate balance.

As humans continue to put more and more pressure on our blue planet, biodiversity is adversely affected. As we pollute the air we breathe and the water we rely on, clear forests, overfish the ocean, and release harmful amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, we disturb the delicate balance of biodiversity—and the results are devastating. According to the 2019 Global Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 1 million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, which is the highest number in human history. As species begin to disappear, the balance of our ecosystems is disrupted, and the ability of those ecosystems to provide essential functions—clean water and air, for example—is diminished.

Closeup of Eastern Painted Turtle

Community science events like the City Nature Challenge allow citizens to get up close and personal with the biodiversity found in their own backyards and neighborhoods, while also providing scientists with important information about the species of wildlife in an area and the habitats they need to thrive.

In the Baltimore region and beyond, the National Aquarium is committed to protecting, enhancing and restoring natural resources for the benefit of all people and wildlife. Joining a National Aquarium conservation event—whether it's a community science event like City Nature Challenge or a local cleanup—is one step you can take to protect the delicate balance of biodiversity we all rely on.

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