Ecolynx Project: Information Context for Biodiversity Conservation

Practical challenges and responses

Logistical compromise in data handling

To ensure the product/service’s relevance to unforeseeable conservation concerns, it must endeavour to provide a context for information on the range of animal and plant species variously estimated at from 5 to 30 million in number—any one of which may emerge as a nexus of environmental concerns. However, comprehensive information at this level of detail is either unavailable or represents an excessive input investment impossible to justify at this time for this project.

Especially in the course of UIA’s work, it was therefore essential to investigate and develop data-handling techniques to avoid the immediate need to handle detail on the universe of biological species whilst maintaining the coherence and inclusiveness of the overall data structure.

The approach taken in the case of the Problems file was to use taxonomic clusters of species wherever the cost of encoding detail proved inappropriate. Taxonomic branches were therefore opened to those levels of detail necessary to capture individual species or species groups currently considered endangered—or to the level of family, order or class in other apparently non-critical cases. In this way, the comprehensive nature of the database is ensured without expanding taxonomic structures to their fullest detail. Hyperlinks are made to the lowest level of detail possible. (The technique is common in outliner functions in wordprocessors and in zooming features in many graphics packages.) As resources and collaborators become available, higher levels of detail can be documented.