WCMC Handbooks on Biodiversity Information Management

2310-2306 (online)
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This series supports those making decisions on the conservation and sustainable use of living resources. The handbooks are training materials designed to build information-management capacity, improve decision-making and assist countries in meeting their obligations under Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Although written to address the specific need for improved management of biodiversity-related information at the national level, the underlying principles apply to environmental information in general, and to decision-making at all levels. The issues and concepts presented may also be applied in the context of specific sectors, such as forestry, agriculture and wildlife management.
Data Management Fundamentals, Volume 7

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Commonwealth Secretariat
01 Jan 1998
9781848596429 (PDF)
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  • Introduction

    Organisations which are assigned—and accept—responsibility for managing datasets are known as custodians (see Volumes 4 and 5). They will normally be regarded as being in the best, or most appropriate position to do so. The custodianship of essential datasets is especially important, since these are needed by many users for many purposes (see Volume 3).

  • Data Flexibility

    Environmental data record phenomena in the physical environment. Some of these recordings are factual, for example the grid reference of the place where a species was observed, the dimensions of a tree, the weight of a log, the annual precipitation at a site, or the absorptive capacity of a soil profile. These are all primary data based on facts which can be measured against stable, widely accepted standards.

  • Data Standards

    Standards enable people to communicate with each other in recognisable ways: languages are a good example. In the present context, data standards refer to agreed methods of collecting, managing and accessing data amongst a group of organisations. In the same way that language standards enable more efficient (and cheaper) communication, data standards enable more efficient use of data.

  • Data Quality-Assurance

    Data quality is a relative term, for which there are no absolute measures. In practice, data quality is a measure of the fitness for use of a dataset for a specific purpose, and cannot be determined before that purpose is known. For example, a topographic map at a scale of 1:500,000 might be considered ‘high quality’ for national-level planning purpose, but ‘poor quality’ for local planning.

  • Use of Information Technology

    If applied in an appropriate and sustainable manner, information technology can lead to considerable cost savings and efficiencies in an organisation. Alternatively, if technology is allowed to dictate strategy, costs are likely to rise and existing work patterns may be disrupted. Such situations demand a fundamental re-appraisal of the role of information technology.

  • Case Study: Tree Conservation Database

    With support from the Government of the Netherlands, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) and the Species Survival Commission (SSC) are working closely with a range of other national and international organisations to develop a global information service on the conservation and sustainable-use of trees. Reliable and up-to-date information on the distribution, conservation status, local uses and economic values of trees is a priority requirement for the planning of sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation.

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