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Databasing Migratory Species
Seasonal migrations are observed within a wide variety of animals, such as grazing mammals, bats, whales and dolphins, seals, birds, turtles, fish and insects. The number of migratory species can only be estimated around 5,000 species, including approximately 1,000 fish species. The "Global Register of Migratory Species" contains a first list of 2,880 migratory vertebrate species in digital format, together with their threat status according to the International Red List 2000, and digital maps for circa 800 species. Maps are compatible with any geographical information system (GIS), which allows geographic queries and threat analysis by intersection with other GIS layers (examples are included on the GROMS CD). The book contains first results from a global analysis of threat status, maps for 90 species in printed format, and a complete printed list of migratory mammals, birds and reptiles.
The Global Register of Migratory Species (GROMS) summarizes our state of knowledge about migratory species. It consists of a relational database connected to a Geographical Information System (GIS). GROMS supports the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and will serve both scientific as well as conservational goals, trying to bridge existing gaps.
Knowledge about migratory species:
The literature database BIOSIS and the WWW were searched to assess the present state of knowledge. Online information for most endangered species is provided by databases maintained by the World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC), the US Wildlife and Fisheries Service and several other organisations, mostly in HTML-Format. In addition, extensive species reports are compiled by IUCN specialists groups or consultants for CMS. For birds and bats, regional ringing databases contain a wealth of information, but provide limited access (f.e., EURING or ÉPOQ-database in Quebec, containing 2 million entries since 1950: Cyr & Larivée 1993).
A comprehensive electronical database exists for fish (FishBase: Froese & Pauly 1997), available on CD-ROM. Up to now, FishBase does not include information on migration. GROMS will cooperate with FishBase. As a first result the migratory status has been assessed, using major reviews and handbooks.
Migratory status of fish
Note the high number of fish species with unknown migratory status. More detailled literature searches are planned to improve our knowledge about this category.
Why Another Database?
The ideal solution would be an open meta-database architecture, but:
Therefore, GROMS required a thematic database design from the scratch.
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals
Maps and GIS
Geographic information about species distributions exists in a huge variety of forms, not necessarily visualized as maps.
Most data are point data, which are often summarized as a distribution area. Especially in birds, quantitative information is entered into cells of grids (raster data). Major mapping endeavours exist for Australia (ERIN), for North American birds, and some economically relevant fish species. The WORLDMAP project charts biodiversity within grids (1).The Biological Conservation Information System Inititatíve (BCIS) tries to coordinate mapping endeavours for conservation.
Most Internet sites present invariant maps as picture files, but the most interesting way is to generate interactive maps "on the fly", generated by a map server. Few Interent sites provid this possibility: the ERIN server in Australia, generates point distribution data, Streamorg generates fish distributions for British Columbia.
GROMS will standardize maps in vector format.
Vector formats consume less computer storage resources and can easily be transformed to different projections or exported to other GIS-projects, to cover further aspects relevant for conservation.
The database combines a relational database and a Geographic Information System (GIS).
It will be published as CD-ROM and on the Internet as a thin client - fat server design. Vectorized maps are generated "on the fly", at the moment of request. Maps are interactive, and information from the database can be retrieved by clicking to certain map sites.
The core of the database is the population table, because
It summarizes basic information such as population size, threats, regional conventions, etc. and links to geographical information such as maps of "wintering" and "breeding" grounds or aggreagation areas. All this information is fully referenced via the connection with the reference table (Jointab_Lit). At the other end, the population is connected with the respective species, and the species table is nested hierarchically with tables about higher taxa (parent taxa).
The connection to the GIS is provided by common fields between GIS attribute tables and the database..
From Knowledge to Conservation
GROMS brings together information sources from basic research and conservation, making them mutually available to the respective communities.
Tables relevant for conservation are:
Hot spots are aggregation areas such as staging posts or breeding grounds for birds, bat wintering caves or any other area where a major percentage of a population aggregates in high concentration. Threats to hot spots affect the entire population, and therefore have to be documented carefully by linking to the respective tables.
Further analysis is possible by linking hot spots to other GIS layers. For example, upstram spawning areas of diadromous fish could be overlaid with planned river dams.
Users and Partners
The most critical step in designing an information management strategy is to define clearly who the intended users are and what their specific information needs will be (Olivierie et al., 1995)
GROMS is funded for three years by the German government (Federal ministry of environment), as a cooperation between the Zoological Research Institute and Museum Alexander Koenig and the University of Bonn. The University provides special support by the newly founded Center of Development Research (ZEF), and a close cooperation with the Geographical Insititute has been initiated.
Various scientists and institutions cooperate with GROMS, among them FishBase and Wetlands International. GROMS is going to harmonize with database standards as given by the World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC) and the Biological Conservation Information System (BCIS). Feedback is given by future users testing prototypes of the database. The database will be available on the Internet and on CD-ROM ath the end of the year 2000.