Beyond data management: how ecoinformatics can benefit environmental monitoring programs
Earth and Environmental Science
We review ways in which the new discipline of ecoinformatics is changing how environmental monitoring data are managed, synthesized, and analyzed. Rapid improvements in information technology and strong interest in biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems are driving a vigorous phase of development in ecological databases. Emerging data standards and protocols enable these data to be shared in ways that have previously been difficult. We use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Coastal Assessment (NCA) as an example. The NCA has collected biological, chemical, and physical data from thousands of stations around the U.S. coasts since 1990. NCA data that were collected primarily to assess the ecological condition of the U.S. coasts can be used in innovative ways, such as biogeographical studies to analyze species invasions. NCA application of ecoinformatics tools leads to new possibilities for integrating the hundreds of thousands of NCA species records with other databases to address broad-scale and long-term questions such as environmental impacts, global climate change, and species invasions.