Friday, 7 June 2013

Progress Report on entry of WW species lists to Atlas of Living Australia

I have reported before on the initial stages of entering the species lists compiled by the Wednesday Walkers (WW) into a database and providing information from the database to the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA).  Since I feel it important to let members know what is being done with their data (and a fair bit of progress has been made) here is an update, based on the situation as at 2 June 2013.

The data base now contains 12,019 records, where each record is a recording of a taxon at a site on a day.  Of these 920 (7.6%) were records including the term ‘sp.’ indicating that the observers present were not certain of the identification below genus level: such records are not submitted to ALA.  Of the 11,099 fully detailed records 9,900 have been posted to ALA in three tranches (the remainder will go up, with a few thousand others, in the next tranch).

I have entered 100 (the round figure is simply a coincidence) walks, covering 120 sites and 139 site visits.  I estimate this is about half the total number to be entered.

As data has been entered, a table of taxa recorded has been built up.  This currently contains 1184 entries of which 292 include ‘sp.’ – typically showing uncertainty between species within a genus, but sometimes doubt between subspecies.  Of the 892 ‘full quality” taxon records, 824 are simply binomial names while 68 are modified by a varietal or subspecies name.  These 68 tripartite taxa are represented by 483 of the 11099 fully detailed records contain a third component (either ssp or var.) and include 
  • 141 trinomial records of Lomandra filiformis (L. f. filiformis {77 records}and  L. f.coriacea {64 records}); and 
  • 51 records of Austrostipa scabra falcata.
The table of species also includes a field for ‘Family’ as plants are often talked about at that level – “daisies”(= Asteraceae); “peas” (or “beans” = Fabaceae); “gums” (= Myrtaceceae).  The 10 families (out of 109 for which at least 1 record has been entered) with the largest number of ‘good’ species entries, and the number of times they have been recorded, are shown below.
Family name
# species recorded
# records
ASTERACEAE
111
1545
ORCHIDACEAE
67
235
MYRTACEAE
64
942
POACEAE
63
974
FABACEAE
63
1053
PROTEACEAE
39
283
MIMOSACEAE
36
579
EPACRIDACEAE
27
524
RHAMNACEAE
25
172
The two indicators are well correlated (r = 0.925) which is a little surprising as some families with only 1 local species have been recorded quite frequently (for example the family Dennstaedtiaceae is only represented locally by Pteridium esculentum - Bracken - but has been recorded 43 times.
I have used ACCESS queries and Earthpoint tools to create some maps showing relative diversity for two of the families: Mimosodieae and Asteraceae.  (Note that in this area Mimosoideae is represented by a single genus Acacia.) In both cases  
  • the pink drops are the sites with the greatest numbers of species within the family (Asteracae > 15 species, Mimosodieae >5 species);
  • the yellow drops are sites with a moderate numbers of species within the family (Asteracae 9 - 15 species, Mimosodieae 3 - 5 species);and 
  • the blue  drops indicate  sites with the lowest numbers of species within the family (Asteracae <9 mimosodieae="" nbsp="" span="" species="">

Asteraceae: sites x number species within family.
Mimosoideae: sites x number species within family.
One possible cause of this variation might be the amount of observer effort.  However plotting number of visits to a sample of sites against the number of species of Acacia recorded in those sites showed no statistically significant relationship.  So I therefore conclude that there is some ‘natural’ phenomenon underlying the differences.

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