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Ecogeographic surveying

When initiating a conservation project it is important to assemble as much information as possible regarding the target species, population or area. Data concerning taxonomy, genetics, distribution and ecology are necessary in order to be able to make adequate and effective conservation plans.

This module presents methods on how to establish an information baseline and an ecogeographic survey.




Creating a knowledge baseline

The knowledge baseline brings together a wide range of information about the target species. Elements needed for knowledge baseline include:

Source - Heywood, V.H. and Dulloo, M.E. [2006 (2005)] ‘In situ Conservation of Wild Plant Species – a Critical Global Review of Good Practices,’ IPGRI Technical Bulletin, no 11, FAO and IPGRI, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), Rome, Italy.

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Components in ecogeographic surveying

Taxonomic information
Correct identification of the taxa being surveyed or selected for conservation is essential.  This may be difficult as the level of accuracy of identification of plant taxa in scientific literature often varies and may be quite low. The nomenclature adopted in the country’s standard Flora(s) should be followed, unless it is found to be incorrect.

Distributional data
Distributional information may be obtained from various sources: Floras and monographs, geobotanical, phytosociological and vegetation studies, herbarium labels, biodiversity databases, etc. Various tools have been developed for the prediction of the geographic distribution of species. Many require the support of a Geographical Information System (GIS). Through georeferencing it is possible to convert text descriptions of locations to those which can be ready by a computer (through GIS software).

Genetic variation
Genetic variation occurs at various levels within species’ populations; for CWR, particular alleles may provide the basis of valuable traits for future breeding programmes. In order to capture the desired amount of genetic variation, a detailed understanding of the structure of the genetic variation occurring in a species and its populations is required.

Population information
How many individuals and populations of a target species should be conserved to ensure their survival is subject to much debate and there are a number of methods for examine population and metapopulation viability.

Ecological information
Determining the ecological conditions under which CWR grow is critical. Common criteria for collecting ecological information through field surveys are e.g. habitat types, disturbance regimes, topography and soil types.

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Methodologies for field surveys and data analysis

At each site, latitude, longitude and altitude should determined by GPS, and location descriptors (geographical region, road or settlement name, proximity to prominent land marks) and physical site characteristics (habitat type, slope, aspect, and precise location of target species plants at the site, if found) should be recorded. 

Data gathered may be analyzed using Discriminant Analysis or Principal Component Analysis. For the visualisation, analysis and management of spatial data, GIS-based packages such as ArcInfo, WorldMap or DIVA may be used.

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