Vegetation Databanks

Phytosociology has a long tradition of publishing, archiving, and re-analyzing releves as its basic primary data. Many phytosociological journals print full tables including all relevant releves, thus making data accessible for future compilation and analysis, which was traditionally performed as synoptic tables on paper. The limitations of manual data management were overcome by using table editing and databank software, which allows seizing, storing, managing, filtering, and analyzing releve data in multiple ways.

Compilation in a databank requires that all information obeys stringent formal and technical rules laid down in reference lists, meta-data and data models. Databanks of different formats and complexity were established, ranging from simple spreadsheets to relational and object-based data models that allow flexible definitions and comprehensive documentation of meta-data. Simple databanks are able to exchange data freely if the same standards, database formats, definitions, and reference lists are used. The success of phytosociological databanks is so far due to rather simple management software packages such as TURBOVEG, which is currently the most widespread program in Europe and beyond, distributed free of charge or at small cost along with taxonomic reference lists and tools to create, edit, and analyze phyto-sociological tables.

While early databank development revolved around fixing standards for data types and references for plant taxon concepts and names, modern ecoinformatics provides tools to exchange data of different formats and taxonomic reference and, ultimately, link up databanks of any format in networks. Rather than enforcing standard formats, these systems require that data are recovered and stored with as much original information as possible, including meta-data on sampling design and methods, cover-abundance scales, definition of layers, taxonomic references, and original data sources.

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