National Vegetation Information System Taxonomic Review
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
Recommendations on taxonomic issues, database linkages and database structure are summarised below. It should be noted that many of these recommendations involve work that is already being effectively done by NVIS collaborators. The recommendations are more an attempt to develop a consistent framework that NVIS managers and collaborators can use for developing and sharing data.
Recommendation 1 — NVIS collaborators form closer relationships with their relevant State herbaria (Sections 4.012, 4.016, 4.13, 4.22, 4.42).
Recommendation 2 — NVIS adopt APNI/WIN and State censuses as the common/standard databases for plant nomenclature and taxonomic validation. NVIS should align its taxonomy with CHAH’s national ‘Consensus Census’ project (Sections 4.013, 4.21, 4.22).
Recommendation 3 — NVIS periodically use the SPRAT taxonomy files for data validation. Also that links between SPRAT and APNI/WIN be improved to allow SPRAT to be updated rapidly in response to taxonomic changes. It is recommended that these links be enhanced and that formal arrangements established (Sections 4.014, 4.13, 4.21).
Recommendation 4 — Common names should have no role in the NVIS Veg_Description table; if they are required for presentational or interpretative purposes, they can be imported from APNI/WIN and other taxonomic databases (Section 4.015).
Recommendation 5 — For future NVIS data exchange, it is recommended that NVIS managers and collaborators adopt the use of the relevant HISPID standards (Sections 4.016, 4.23, see also recommendations 14 and 22).
Taxonomic issues and database structure
Recommendation 6 — Duplication of names should be consolidated. Vegetation descriptions (Veg_Description table) that use marked duplicate records should be shifted to marked master records. Unique, unmarked records should not be changed (Section 4.11).
Recommendation 7 — Duplicate records should not be immediately discarded as they represent unique contributions from each of the States (Section 4.11).
Recommendation 8 — Infraspecific name rank identifier typographic errors should be corrected following the instructions provided in the CPBR_SOLUTION field (Section 4.12).
Recommendation 9 — Records with infraspecific rank identifier, but no infraspecific name should be referred back to their data source. Where possible the data provider should check what data is missing and provide the correct infraspecific name. If no name can be provided, the rank identifier should be removed (Section 4.12).
Recommendation 10 — Infraspecific level taxa should be used where possible and appropriate (Sections 4.12, 4.41).
Recommendation 11 — Synonyms used to generate vegetation descriptions (Veg_Description table) should be changed to the name written in the CPBR_WIN_NAME field (Section 4.13).
Recommendation 12 (short term) — Alternate family names should be replaced with names provided in the CPBR_SOLUTION field. A consensus view of family names should be adopted (Sections 4.141, 4.142).
Recommendation 13 (long term) — future data provision from collaborators should not include family names. NVIS data import routines should ignore family names provided by collaborators, which can be retrofitted from taxonomic databases as discussed in recommendation 2 (Sections 4.141, 4.142, 4.22, 4.41).
Recommendation 14 — Name qualifiers (e.g. sens. lat., sp. agg.) should be moved into a new Taxon_Lists QUALIFIER field to increase the consistency with HISPID standards (Sections 4.016, 4.143, 4.23, 4.41). Whilst outside the scope of this project it is recommended that the SPRAT database also adopt a separated QUALIFIER field.
Recommendation 15 — Double epithets should be referred back to the host institution to enable the appropriate checking and correction of the original data (Section 4.144).
Recommendation 16 (short term) Status Unknown qualification — remove the qualification in the SPECIES field, leaving the identification at the genus (or family) level (Section 4.145).
Recommendation 17 (long term) Status Unknown qualification — refer records back to data provider to try and determine what the species being referred to actually are (Section 4.145).
Recommendation 18 — Misspelt names should be replaced with the correct spellings found in the relevant CPBR_WIN_NAME fields (Section 4.146).
Recommendation 19 — Non-plant taxon records should be removed for the Taxon_Lists dataset (Section 4.148).
Recommendation 20 — The two Taxon_Lists author columns be removed from the NVIS database and from NVIS data interchange formats (Sections 4.15, 4.22, 4.23, 4.41).
Future test measures
Recommendation 21 — ERIN adopt a multi-stage approach to the checking of taxonomic data, with iterative checks on the databases against which NVIS is being checked (Sections 4.21, 4.3):
- National plant list used by ERIN be updated regularly from ‘Consensus Census’ information sourced through APNI/WIN (quarterly or ad hoc preload updates may be sufficient);
- Changes or updates detected or required at the national level be communicated to NVIS custodians. Dialogue to scope and resolve differences to be initiated;
- NVIS abandon the concept of maintaining its own taxonomic authority file for internal and incoming data checking and validation;
- APNI/WIN and the evolving ‘Consensus Census’ be used as the taxonomic resource for NVIS; for reasons of pragmatism, expediency and practicality, use of this resource need not be direct if there is an appropriate up to date local gateway to views of this information; SPRAT fulfill these requirements;
- NVIS adopts an existing accessible taxonomic authority file for this purpose. From a practical point of view, the taxon tables of the SPRAT database are well-placed for this role ;
- NVIS enters into a MOUMOU or Service Level Agreement with SPRAT establishing a clear understanding of the use(s) SPRAT taxonomic data will be put, NVIS requirements and expectations of SPRAT taxonomic data and mechanisms for dealing with inconsistencies and unexpected events;
- Given that NVIS data providers have not empowered the NVIS database to change provided taxon names, NVIS will need map provided names to an NVIS endorsed name; in most cases the mapping will be 1:1 with no change involved; a small percentage will be either errors or inconsistencies which will require communication between NVIS, SPRAT and the data provider;
- Existing NVIS data will be compared against SPRAT and inconsistencies will be rectified; changes will need to be communicated with NVIS data providers and agreements reached on how errors and legitimate differences will be flagged and handled, both within NVIS and within the supplying databases; and
- NVIS data supplied for amalgamation will be compared (and updated) on load with the national NVIS plant list, stored as fields in SPRAT, which will reflect the taxonomy of APNI/WIN and the ‘Consensus Census’.
Advice to collaborators
Recommendation 22 — NVIS collaborators should follow the nomenclatural database structure outlined in the HISPID standards, atomizing data into single elements (or fields) (Sectio ns 4.016, 4.23).
Recommendation 23 — NVIS collaborators, in the interests of providing more consistent data, become more closely familiar with the 2003 Australian Vegetation Attributes Manual’s (ESCAVI 2003) guidelines (Sections 4.12, 4.4, 4.41).
Recommendation 24 — Data providers need to take greater care with the quality of infraspecific rank data provided. Preferred abbreviations are recommended which match those used in the ESCAVI (2003) manual (Sections 4.12, 4.41).
Recommendation 25 — Taxon fields such as family name and taxon authors (if used) should be sourced from an authoritative taxonomic database such as APNI/WIN or SPRAT (Section 4.41).
Recommendation 26 — future data incorporated in NVIS, where possible, should be based on herbarium vouchers lodged with recognised Australian state and/or national herbaria (Section 4.42).