Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Proposed changes to Darwin Core to improve the flow of alien species data
Quentin John Groom, Peter Desmet

Building: Computer Science
Room: Computer Science 3
Date: 2016-12-07 02:00 PM – 03:30 PM
Last modified: 2016-10-22


Preventative action towards the introduction of invasive alien species (IAS) and a fast response to already introduced IAS can reduce the cost of remediation considerably. Managers and decision makers need to be alerted rapidly with useful information and with few false alarms. Yet the data needed to achieve this are fragmented taxonomically and spatially. Data flows from original observations to actions are slow and unreliable. Furthermore, data conversions and data aggregation can result in a reduction in data quality and resolution. Improving this situation is far from simple requiring changes to culture, technology, funding, methods and standards. Here we focus on one small element of this issue, the data standards for IAS research and reporting. To be useful, standards need to be sufficiently sophisticated, but they also need to be simple enough to be usable by non-specialists. In this regard we propose three changes to Darwin Core (DwC). Two of these changes are to recommend controlled vocabularies for the existing terms, occurrenceStatus and establishmentMeans. These vocabularies are not new, but are already used by the Convention on Biological Diversity and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The third change is to add the new term ‘origin’ and a recommended controlled vocabulary also used by the IUCN. The result of these changes is to clarify three important pieces of information about the organism’s presence at a location. Firstly, it establishes whether the organism is considered introduced or native; secondly, whether it is extant at the location; and thirdly, how the organism came to occur at the location. While two of these terms already exist in DwC, their use is not clear and with the addition of the ‘origin’ term the concept of whether something is native or introduced will be separated from whether it still exists at the location and how it got there. These relatively simple changes use vocabularies that are already familiar and accepted by biodiversity researchers and can be used for the rapid generation of checklists of native and alien species. This would be a significant step forward and a milestone towards automation of processes such as horizon scanning, which tries to predict likely new IAS that are emerging, but are not yet present in an area. We therefore hope that this proposal will be ratified and adopted by the TDWG community.