Applications of existing biodiversity information: capacity to support decision making

F. Corsi

Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


The extinction crisis has led to a multitude of scientific and political responses. These inc1ude Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) that encourage consistent and cooperative regional and global initiatives. The need to monitor the progress and results of treaty implementation has increased demand for authoritative and current information about biological diversity, its status and distribution. A number of efforts to build knowledge about biodiversity respond to these demands. Government and NGO networks have been formed to link information resources, and to assess and monitor the status of biodiversity.
The efforts have not yet met expectations. This has frequently been attributed to lack of data and knowledge. However, while the gaps in data and understanding about biodiversity are significant, information and analytical methodologies available today are adequate to support decision-making and natural resource management:
o The information is dispersed but can be made available with a weIl structured and managed information network supported through the electronic media;
o The value of the information can be better understood with application of analytical methodologies, in particular ecological modelling, which exploit Geographic Information Systems (GIS);
o Potential for information uses, including tracking changes in biodiversity status over time, can be maximised with a data management infrastructure that accommodates taxonomic and data inconsistencies, and evolving data needs and demands.
This thesis argues that with the above factors in place, existing resources can support biodiversity information needs now and in the immediate future. Information and analytical tools currently available allow us to transform scarce data into decision-making tools. Specific examples presented illustrate the result of mobilising experts' data and applying GIS technologies.
The African Mammals Databank applies information networking techniques and GIS to produce species distribution models at the continental scale, a broadscale result that sets the context within which informed decisions can be made. The Large Scale Model of Wolf Distribution in Italy for Conservation Planning presents high-resolution environmental suitability models for the whole of Italy, illustrating application of inductive modelling techniques to limited locational data, and the potential analytical value of otherwise dispersed data. Expert based species distribution maps for the assessment of biodiversity conservation status: the Italian Ecological Network demonstrates how GIS species distribution models derived from expert knowledge can be applied to prioritysetting for biodiversity conservation and how predictions of species richness can be made by overlaying multiple species distribution models. It also illustrates the potential to further integrate these models with, for example, patterns of threat and development plans.
Data management infrastructures that accommodate inconsistent data and evolving information needs provide us with the means to manage, synthesise and analyse information with consistency across space and time. Application of such infrastructures would allow us to advance beyond single project analyses that require intensive data-gathering components, towards an information resource that tracks changes in biodiversity status over time. It is this step that will set into motion a true biodiversity monitoring capacity.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Skidmore, Andrew, Promotor
  • Prins, Herbert, Promotor
  • de Leeuw, J., Co-promotor, External person
Award date4 Oct 2004
Place of Publication[S.I.]
Print ISBNs9789085040903
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • biodiversity
  • nature conservation
  • information systems
  • geographical information systems
  • geographical distribution
  • decision support systems
  • ecological network


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