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
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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