National Vegetation Information System Taxonomic Review

National Vegetation Information System
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004

Executive summary

Floristic data is the key input used to standardise National Vegetation Information System (NVIS) vegetation descriptions. The Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN) funded the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research (CPBR) to provide a taxonomic review of this database. This report is for the consideration of ERIN managers and NVIS collaborators.

CPBR assessed the taxonomic accuracy and currency of the 5,447 species used in the NVIS Taxon_Lists table to create plant communities in the Veg_Description table. It should be noted that ERIN had previously validated most of these records; this review was partly conducted to assess the accuracy of current ERIN validation procedures. This review marked 896 (16.45%) records as having issues that needed correction. Name duplication, synonymy and inconsistent use of family names were the main taxonomic issues encountered. Just over 50% of records involved some form of name duplication resulting from the database design; for example, the 5,447 taxonomic records relate to 3,684 individual taxa. Simple data errors relating to infraspecific names were also common, 42% of infraspecific taxa were found to have the rank component of the name misspelt. Some issues encountered related to inconsistencies in marrying the data provided by multiple agencies that have alternate taxonomic viewpoints. Significant widespread plant groups such as eucalypts, wattles and the family Proteaceae were examined in greater detail, including an assessment of author name accuracy.

For the purposes of this review, ERIN set up new columns within the Taxon_Lists dataset to allow for individual record level commentary. Every record with a taxonomic issue was provided with problem identification and a recommended solution. Comment is also provided on the overall database architecture, including recommendations that involve the removal of existing Taxon_Lists columns (authors, family) and the addition of a new one (qualifier).

Discussion is provided on existing and future links between NVIS and other Australian botanical databases such as SPRAT, APNI/WIN and State censuses. These links should help to create a synergy that will benefit NVIS product users and develop closer ties between Commonwealth, State and Territory collaborators. Future developments such as the “Consensus Census” project (as part of the AVH) are discussed with comment on the potential benefits to NVIS management. These include a moving towards a consensus view of taxonomy between Commonwealth and State government institutions whilst maintaining existing access to State data custodian’s local knowledge. Independent database advancements (APNI/WIN, SPRAT) should reduce the need for NVIS managers to keep on top of current taxonomic opinion. It should also reduce the need to dedicate staff and resources to maintaining up-to-date taxonomic (family, genus, species and infraspecies) and associated data (e.g. author name).

Guidance is also provided to data collaborators to help improve the accuracy of data they manage. Field collection techniques and appropriate vouchering procedures are detailed to encourage data collaborators to increase the number of NVIS records that are vouchered in permanent herbarium collections.