Getting the most out of atlas data

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Abstract:

Abstract Aim 

To review some of the applications in ecology and conservation biogeography of datasets derived from atlas projects. We discuss data applications and data quality issues and suggest ways in which atlas data could be improved. Location 

Southern Africa and worldwide. Methods 

Atlas projects are broadly defined as collections or syntheses of original, spatially explicit data on species occurrences. We review uses of atlas datasets and discuss data quality issues using examples from atlas projects in southern Africa and worldwide. Results 

Atlas projects must cope with tradeoffs between data quality and quantity, standardization of sampling methods, quantification of sampling effort, and mismatches in skills and expectations between data collectors and data users. The most useful atlases have a good measure of sampling effort; include data collected at a fine enough resolution to link to habitat variables of potential interest; have a sufficiently large sample size to work with in a multivariate context; and offer clear, quantitative indications of the quality of each record to allow for the needs of users who have specific demands for high-quality data. Main conclusions 

Atlases have an important role to play in biodiversity conservation and ideally should aim to offer reliable, high quality data that can withstand public, scientific and legal scrutiny.

Keywords: Atlas projects; GIS; biodiversity databases; conservation biogeography; data quality; distributions

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4642.2010.00639.x

Affiliations: 1: Percy FitzPatrick Institute for African Ornithology, DST/NRF Center of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, Cape Town 7701, South Africa 2: School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private bag 3, WITS 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa

Publication date: May 1, 2010

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