DBI: 9905838, Peet, Robert, UNC Chapel Hill. A perfectly archived, continuously updated database system for analysis of North American vegetation.

Vegetation classification is of central importance to biological conservation for planning and inventory, to resource management for monitoring and planning, and to basic scientific research as a tool for organizing and interpreting ecological information. All of these activities require that ecological units be defined and that their distribution on the landscape be known and understood. Technological advances have made practical large-scale analyses that cross agency jurisdictions or geographic regions and address applied ecological issues as diverse as global change, ecosystem management, and conservation planning. However, all such efforts depend on having available a common set of well defined and broadly accepted classification units. The US federal government, through the activities of the Federal Geographic Data Committee, has approved standards for a US national vegetation classification system. However, before such a system can be operational and broadly accepted an information infrastructure is needed to manage the anticipated 10*7 vegetation plot records and 10*4 plant associations. The focus of this award is on the development of such an information infrastructure, designed so that the information can be distributed across the web while being both continually updated and perfectly archived.

This project will design, develop and test prototypes of core components of the information infrastructure necessary to support the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. A working group will meet periodically at the National Ecological Analysis and Synthesis Center to advise the PIs and a dedicated postdoc/programer. The first component is a stand-alone vegetation plot database. Plot data provide the essential information that underlies any credible vegetation classification. This database will be designed to allow inclusion of a diversity of plot types, and will be tested using 4 large and divergent datasets. Component data will be useful, not only for revision of the national classification, but also for numerous studies of vegetation composition, structure and dynamics. The second component is a database that holds the vegetation classification. Tracking of start and stop dates for records that are never discarded should allow the communities recognized and the supporting data to be reconstructed for any time in its history. A third component, to be developed in concept only, is a database that contains the botanical nomenclature needed to identify the species referenced in the other two databases. Plant nomenclature as treated in current databases is inadequate for use in the plots and classification databases because the meanings associated with plant names do change, leaving old usage ambiguous.

Once developed and peer reviewed, the prototypes will be adopted and maintained by some combination of TNC, USGS (NBI I), FGDC and ESA.. The USGS National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) anticipates maintaining and serving the plots database, and TNC anticipates maintaining and serving the vegetation classification database as part of its new Heritage Data Management System. The plant nomenclature database attributes to be developed are likely to be incorporated within the USDA Plants Database and the USGS ITIS Database.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Sylvia J. Spengler
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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill
United States
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