Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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There is No Place Like Home: Defining “Habitat” for Biodiversity and Conservation science - Can we develop a research agenda for Habitat Informatics ?
Robert D. Stevenson, Evangelos Pafilis, Carl Nordman, Lesley Sneddon

Building: Elmia Congress Centre, Jönköping
Room: Rydbergsalen
Date: 2014-10-30 09:05 AM – 09:10 AM
Last modified: 2014-10-04


Text mining of Google books and the Biodiversity Heritage Library shows that “habitat” has been a central concept in biology for hundreds of years. Habitat is the set of conditions that describe where a species lives; where its needs for survival and reproduction can be met. During the rise of conservation biology over the last 30 years, “habitat loss” and “habitat fragmentation” have been identified as one of the most important drives of species extirpation and extinction.  “Critical habitat”, “essential habitat” and “core habitat” are phrases often used in regards to threatened or endangered species. “Habitat management”, “habitat conservation” and “habitat restoration” invoke images of human efforts to secure wildlife populations, control fire loads or remediate polluted sits. The generality of the term habitat, however, has made it difficult to define it in practice and to use in biodiversity science (Hall et al. 1997). Habitat needs are usually described in a species or lineage specific way, making it difficult to define habitat-species relationships generally or to define and map habitats across a landscape. These complexities have inhibited biodiversity scientists from developing a framework to define, compare and contrasts habitats among species or guilds. Here we propose three steps to better utilize the concept of habitat: 1) put habitat into the context of species prediction models, 2) contrast hierarchical landscape models such as NatureServe’s Ecological Systems and National Vegetation Classification models and 3) ask how can these landscape models be recast as ontologies that could communicate with the Environmental Ontology, http://environmentontology.org/ developed by the microbiology community as a Genomics Standards Consortium project.