Knowledge reference for national forest assessments - information management (annotated bibliography)
3. Standards, metadata and data quality
Describes effort made to develop common terms and definitions that can be applied to forest resources assessment, with respect to land classifications, forest parameters and forest changes. Agreement on common classifications and definitions involves compromises. There is no single classification system that will serve and satisfy all needs. What is essential is that the classification criteria are clear and can be applied objectively. The FRA 2000 will attempt to report not only on the quantity of forest but also on the condition of forests. The latter aspect is reflected in the distinction between undisturbed natural forest, disturbed natural forest and semi-natural forest. Attempts to obtain international agreement on standard minimum diameters for the measurement of growing stock have been unsuccessful so far.
Good introduction to digital gazetteers.
Web page for botanical nomenclature.
The standard provides a common set of terminology and definitions for the documentation of digital geospatial data and establishes the names of data elements and compound elements (groups of data elements) to be used for these purposes. It also defines these elements, and specifies the information about the values that are to be provided for the data elements.
Web page of forest glossary and dictionary resources.
Web page of harmonization resources
Home page of International Organization for Standardization
Home page of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, which is the basis of several forest information systems.
Web page for thesauri
The manual describes primary services and technologies available to organizations (providers) allowing users (consumers) to access geospatial data products, services and organizations. Framework Data is a set of context and reference information for the country. It is widely used and underpins most geospatial applications. Framework Data includes physical features such as roads and rivers, as well as conceptual boundaries such as municipal and provincial boundaries. Services include catalogues and registries for discovery and direct access of services and information. Discovery Services allow people to discover, evaluate and access information. Discusses searching of distributed databases. The GeoConnections Discovery Portal is the Canadian node of the International Directory Network (IDN). Under this arrangement metadata about Canadian databases are made available through an international network of directory systems. In return, descriptions of international databases are made available to all GeoConnections users. Services and components are reusable. Evaluation is by metadata or by visualization. The Metadata Content Team checks all new or modified registrations as soon as they are entered into the directory and assists in registration process and ensuring data quality. Metadata describes the origin of the data or service and tracks the change. Metadata answers who, what, where, when, why, and how about every facet of the data or service being documented. This includes details regarding the data's ownership, quality, time of collection or update, attribute information and how it can be accessed and obtained. To ensure consistency, metadata can be defined by standards that offer a common set of terms, definitions and organization. It is a vital foundation for understanding, collaborating and sharing resources with others. It allows people to determine what the best resources are for their individual needs by permitting them to see the details of the data itself and its history, and also empowers searching. Describes metadata standards in relation to ISO metadata standard and schema required for describing geographical information and services. Describes use of search servers, which act as a "go between" between the Internet and the database. Discusses Web Map Services (WMS), designed to display maps and/or images, and gives examples of interoperability of web mapping services and discovery services. Describes use of Re-Usable Components (RUC), FREE on-line CGDI tools that can be embedded into an organization's Web pages.
Discusses quality, reliability and comparability of data. For the �traditional� types of information the quality has been assessed as generally satisfactory. For some of the more recently introduced parameters, such as those concerned with forest condition, protection status, the provision of non-wood goods and services, some countries could not provide information from official sources and were thus obliged to make estimates or felt unable to provide any figures at all. Difficulties sometimes arose in interpreting and applying definitions used in the TBFRA. This could affect not only the comparability between countries� data, but also the actual statistics. Changes in areas may be due to the way in which forest available for and not available for wood supply has been understood. The ownership pattern is changing in many of the countries of Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) whose economies are in transition to forms of market economy, where the process of privatization or restitution is continuing and where therefore the information provided may be partly out of date or may be expected to change significantly over the next decade. Defoliation figures are discussed. Systems of nomenclature applied in national FRAs are characterized by tradition and by national information needs and are not standardized internationally. Even identically named attributes may mask different concepts and definitions. Change (in any parameter) is not usually measured directly: rather measurements of the same parameter are taken at different time intervals, but with the same methods and definitions, and then compared. It is essential to separate �changes� due to changes in methods or in definitions from those really arising from changes in the parameter measured. Problems of comparability of national data and the reliability of aggregated results arise mainly because of differences in (1) the national systems of nomenclature, i.e. measurement rules and definitions, and (2) the reference period. Differences in definitions and measurement rules can be made compatible in two different ways: (1) by harmonization and by (2) standardization. Understanding the distinction between harmonization and standardization is important. Standardization introduces a new, common definition or standard that is applied in all national programmes. The success in making data comparable affects directly the reliability of the results. Reliability is a term that is used to describe the closeness of obtained results (figures, maps, etc.) to the real situation. The TBFRA has uncovered serious disagreements with respect to interpretation of some information, particularly with regard to what constitutes a protected area. One important information gap identified in the TBFRA planning discussions was a centralized set of data on presence and abundance of tree species in different countries. Forest health and disturbances are discussed. The main difficulty in providing useful data on Traditional Use is trying to isolate the use of forest environments by indigenous and tribal peoples. Population censuses do not provide information on the percentage of the indigenous people living in or using forest and other wooded land. Not all indigenous peoples have strong ties to forest land.
Problems with information supply and demand include information being kept secret or in closed government files. Typical shortcomings of national forest inventories include lack of safe back-up procedures; lack of formal reporting obligations, and lack of inclusion of NFI in countries official statistics. Statistical analysis of data quality is required. Authorities sometimes do not want truth to be known. �Information does not always tell the indisputable truth. Different people tend to interpret information in different ways. Conflicting interpretations can often end up in a discussion of definitions.� �Good information is a prerequisite of consensus but it does not always lead there. Sometimes consensus is simply not possible. Even good information does not always convince everybody�. �Organization of existing information is a task that may be tedious and lack glamour, but can often save much money and time.� - requires good archiving and retrieval systems. Information has costs and timeliness. �The value of information is usually significantly increased if the information can put in relation to other information.� - requires that measurements and standards are comparable.
Discussion focused on the key terms - forest, afforestation, deforestation and reforestation.
The integrated database system implemented in all districts of Poland covers all operations and allows information on forest stands to be continuously updated. The development of information technologies has made it possible to manage the large forest district databases efficiently. The forestry information must by law be accessible to the public. Storing data in electronic form allows this. Forest information collection activities are often supervised by more than one ministry. Good cooperation makes these activities possible, but they are hindered by a lack of formal regulations, particularly concerning reporting for international assessments. The increasing international interest in environmental issues has resulted in a growing number of assessments. These usually rely on national data and use national capacity for data preparation. The increase in workload, however, has not been matched by a growth in country capacity, and the quality of data reporting may soon start to deteriorate. The lack of harmonization among international questionnaires can result either in redundancy or in discrepancies originating from the different recommended methods of data preparation.
The aim of the Task Force on Global Forest Information Service is to develop a strategy for, and implement, an Internet-based metadata service that will provide co-ordinated worldwide access to forest information. �Using the Internet and WWW, the GFIS will be a distributed network of metadatabases, which catalogue the information resources of contributing GFIS partners. GFIS will function by providing a standardised core of metadata (catalogue) fields, a standardised set of key words on which to search and a standardised interface between web sites and the databases. This will enable the catalogues to operate in an interoperable environment.� GFIS will be an open, standards-based system to which providers can contribute content based on a GFIS �collection policy�. The policy will define subject coverage, target audience, types of resources to be included, submission procedure, quality assessment, metadata standards and maintenance arrangements. Uses the Dublin Core standard content description model to facilitate discovery of electronic resources. The Dublin Core metadata is about semantics and is complemented by the Resource Description Framework (RDF), the Extensible Mark-up Language (XML.
Resource discovery in the European Forest Information System (EFIS) uses metadata based on Dublin Core Metadat Initiative (http://dublincore.org). Once information is found it can be visualized. EFIS helps meet Agenda 21 requirement for improved access to information.
Describes a data collection system where data entry is based on use of Excel and Access databases. Specification of methods of adjustment of national information to the TBFRA was required, including description of errors. Notes and comments were integral part of the information system. TBRFA data should not be interpreted without prior familiarization with these notes and comments. The data validation and analysis system requires much manual work to maintain and update data. The data dissemination system presents TBFRA information in 3 forms: paper, digital via www, and original database. Access tables transferred to Excel for graphics. Organization and maintenance of the database is the most critical factor in the TBFRA data system. The current structure is carried over from earlier approach, precluding automation of some features. Updating TBFRA information by countries can be problematic; requires many manual steps. The possibility of dealing with the problems depends on resources.