Conclusions and threat synopsis < Biodiversity informatics > Threat synopsis

5.1 — Biodiversity informatics — lessons from the GROMS project

The GROMS is not an isolated database. Because migration is observed in a wide variety of species, distinct information sources had to be evaluated, ranging from species databases to GIS datasets. The experiences gained during this process of data integration might be useful for the ongoing process of harmonising biodiversity informatics initiatives (see chapter 2, for an outline of the most important initiatives). For fishes, future data exchange between both databases is facilitated by a direct hyperlink, which allows switching from GROMS to Fishbase on the World Wide Web. For the IUCN Red List 2000 in its digital format (Hilton-Taylor 2000), the IUCN species code has been stored within the GROMS, to facilitate future compatibility. In the future, similar connections could be made to other species databases. But up to now there is no comprehensive database available for any of the other animal groups covered by the GROMS. This would be particularly necessary for birds, where considerable nomenclature differences complicated data exchange with a variety of sources, requiring management of synonyms and parallel taxonomies. Given the huge number of ornithologists, and the comparatively low number of unknown species, it is strange that there is still no "Birdbase" available. New taxonomic database initiatives such as the "Global Biodiversity Information Facility" ( will hopefully speed up computer access to taxonomic information, and develop protocols for interoperability of databases.

Taxonomic problems were even worse on the level of subspecies, where the GROMS seems to provide the first digitally available subspecies list of migratory non-passerine birds and marine mammals. This list has to be extended for passerine birds and all other mammals, but hopefully in cooperation with other taxonomic database initiatives. A higher taxonomic resolution is necessary for an adequate assessment of migration behaviour, which differs between populations. In addition, improved genetic studies will lead us to a better understanding of migratory pathways of populations, and conservation plans will have to take into account the results from such high-resolution studies. In summary, maintenance of migrant diversity requires conservation of all subspecies and populations. But subspecies and populations are often subjects of scientific controversy, and a satisfying solution of the "population problem" is still a challenge for biodiversity information systems, requiring complex data models. In addition, an efficient management of population data requires links to museum specimen databases and gene banks.

The greatest challenge for the GROMS was the integration of geographic information. The GIS format allows efficient data exchange, either for export or for import of other distribution maps. The GROMS imported distribution maps for African terrestrial mammals (Institute of Applied Ecology 1998), and exchanged waterbird maps in GIS format with UNEP-WCMC without problems. The difficulty here was GIS data administration, retrieval and visualisation. This required the design of a geodatabase, together with a web interface for visualisation, which is compatible with OpenGIS standards (see chapter 3, and Riede 2001). This should provide the necessary link to environmental datasets from other disciplines (agriculture, forestry, planning agencies) and organisations, including governments and private sector. However, lack of integration between such spatial environmental data sets is comparable or even worse than in biology: "Environmental impact studies for [...] development
projects are completed without access to an integrated database [...]. Large-scale environmental inventories are unable to incorporate local findings. All of this leads to a need for expensive ad-hoc integrations, entire applications to incorporate legacy data, and missed opportunity. The problem is all the more substantial because of the vast array of professionals involved with environmental issues, and the diversity of data that must be considered for various kinds of analysis" (Phillip Dibner, pers. com. in: Open GIS Project document 01-012r1). This analysis by a natural resource ecologist might be an explanation for the inadequacy of most present environmental impact studies, especially with respect to biodiversity.

Conclusions and threat synopsis < Biodiversity informatics > Threat synopsis

This document should be quoted as part of the publication "Riede, K. (2001): The Global Register of Migratory Species ­ Database, GIS Maps and Threat Analysis. Münster (Landwirtschaftsverlag), 400 pp." + CD

 by Klaus Riede