Assembling Databases By Merging

Now that some species databases have been constructed, it becomes possible to assemble bigger ones by merging some existing databases together A hypothetical diagrammatic example is shown in Figure 9. 3 .

9.3.1 International Legume Database and lNf0RMATi0N Service

One of the earliest projects to create a computer database for a large group of organisms was ILDIS (http://www. ildis . org), the International Legume Database and Information Service. It was started in the 1980s when the wider availability of improved database management

FIGURE 9.1 Part of the ERMS checklist page for Reptilia, showing an example of the static checklist format generated from the database in advance .

class Reptilia (CRMS taxonomic hierarchy) • MortMa

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European Register of Murine Species

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Taxonomic hierarchy for the class Reptilia

Btggjuasm SSfrpaaa? «3 BQaflKa ^padae

Taxonomic hierarchy for the class Reptilia

class RqHilki

Taxonomic position of the class

4 groups within (lie class

Reptilia:

Reptilia:

Top level of the hierarchy

order Testudines

phvlum Chord a! a

order Crocodvlm

subphyluni Vertebrate

order Saiirin

class Reptilia

order Scrpenies

FIGURE 9.2 ERMS dynamic hierarchy page for Reptilia, generated from the database on demand.

FIGURE 9.2 ERMS dynamic hierarchy page for Reptilia, generated from the database on demand.

systems such as dBase II on desktop computers made it possible to design and operate larger, more sophisticated data systems and to distribute extracts or copies of the entire database

Unlike the Vicieae Database Project, ILDIS aimed to construct a database for the whole plant family Leguminosae. This encompasses about 20,000 species, perhaps 7-8% of the world's flowering plants, including peas, beans and related pod-bearing plants, many of

Plants of Europe

Plants of Europe

Plants of Africa

Plants of Africa

Plants of Europe

Plants of Europe o=

Plants of Africa

Plants of Africa

FIGURE 9.3 Merging databases . 1 . The original databases are physically copied into a new combined database . 2 . The user interacts with the new combined database .

which are of economic value. Its goals include building, maintaining and enhancing the ILDIS World Database of Legumes (Bisby et al . 2004) and designing and providing services from it to users, including an online Web database (LegumeWeb) and through the Species 2000 gateway described later

The project began, like many others, as an informal cooperation among a number of specialists, in this case taxonomists and applied biologists with a scientific interest in the family. It is now an international collaborative project with a coordinating centre; approximately 10 regional coordinators responsible, typically, for a whole continent (or large area such as the former USSR), who had already begun, in many cases, to assemble regional data sets; and 30 taxonomic coordinators responsible for particular taxonomic or regional sectors of the family Although a purpose-built software package (Alice) for building species databases was used (see White et al . 1993), hindsight has shown that this was lacking in crucial features now considered essential, such as the capability for distributed querying and editing and for merging separately constructed databases Nevertheless, the merging of separate regional checklists was central to the design of the ILDIS data management process The lack of software support for this was alleviated by a reduced range of data types, compared to the Vicieae database, together with a data entry regime that took place at one site, with data editing and checking performed on paper print-outs at regional centres

The core taxonomic checklist is nearing completion and provides a consensus taxonomy — a unified taxonomic treatment or backbone to which various kinds of additional data may be attached . Version 7. 03 of the ILDIS World Database of Legumes comprised 19,554 taxa, of which 15,574 are species, 1587 subspecies and 2393 varieties . In addition to the 19,554 accepted names, there are 20,101 synonyms and various misnomers, making 39,655 names altogether.

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