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Proceedings of the Workshop on Databases for Nonindigenous Plants


Information Survey for Nonindigenous Plants

To gather information for the catalog of databases, database managers responded to a questionnaire issued by the workshop organizers. Seventeen different programs responded to the survey.

Database managers identified the purpose, status, and intended user of their database. The availability of Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) metadata was addressed. Formats for accessing the data were described. How data are structured and what software is used were indicated. Categories were provided to describe the source of occurrence data: field data collected as part of the database program, field data collected by an independent program, herbarium data, literature based data, or personal communications. Responses reflected the time frame the data represents, as well as how the data may be geographically or politically referenced. The geographical extent, land ownership, and type of land cover from which occurrence data are derived were described. Categories were also chosen to indicate the type of plants as well as other nonindigenous organisms treated. Current products and planned additions to the program were listed. Finally, characteristic data elements were outlined and nomenclature sources cited.

These responses were then compiled into two tables to facilitate comparison of important features among them and to serve as a simple reference. In addition, a synopsis of the various database inventories and characteristics follows this list.

Plants treated:

About half of the databases cover nonindigenous plants, exclusively. The remaining include all plants, native as well as introduced. Database design and content are tied to programmatic elements so that in some programs, the inclusion of nonindigenous plants is occasional or indirect.

Other organisms treated:

Nonindigenous organisms other than plants are covered by four of the Federal and by both university databases. Vertebrate animals and biocontrol agents are more commonly tracked.

Intended user:

All databases are intended for use by land managers, although some appear more oriented towards researchers or for the purpose of educating the general public.

Geographic extent:

The geographical extent of the 17 databases ranges from the state to international level. Nine programs cover distribution across the United States. Land ownership is not usually an issue for many programs with respect to collecting data or compiling distribution data. Combined databases collect or compile data from all USGS land cover types, although freshwater wetlands, grasslands, and shrublands are more commonly inventoried.

Data sources:

All except one program use occurrence data from outside sources. Literature, herbarium records, outside monitoring programs, and personal communications are all used. In some ways, these databases act as centers or clearing houses where outside data is analyzed and compiled for determination of distribution. However, 12 of the database managers responded that they also conduct some type of in-house monitoring program. Only about eight depend primarily on field data from their own monitoring programs for determining distribution.

Data referencing:

Knowing how data are referenced, or the geographic level at which data is used provides insight into the resolution at which actual spatial tracking occurs. Occurrence data within the databases are commonly referenced according to locality. Over half of the programs incorporate point data (latitude/longitude readings). Occurrence data are also often referenced according to geographical features such as rivers, watersheds, islands and forests, or ecoregion type. State and county are the most commonly referenced political features. Other political boundaries range from military installations and national park units to administrative units such as management areas, preserves, and conservation sites.

Data dates:

The databases are mostly made of contemporary records, especially since 1980. Many programs include historical data, and the oldest data actually date back to the 1700s.


Less than half of the databases have Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) metadata.

Data structure:

Most are relational databases, although spreadsheets are still used.


The tables show that the databases are used for preparing reports (especially those applied to land management), maps, and other graphics. Analysis, modeling, and some unique monitoring information systems also result from these databases.

Data availability:

Over half of the databases have on-line web sites planned, the others currently use the Internet for providing access to data.

Planned additions:

Common additions planned include the Geographic Information System (GIS), collection of field data, and the addition of images and identification aids.

Database Abstracts:

Abstracts provide further description, contact numbers, and information on the database programs and on the status of data availability. Database directors and managers are gratefully acknowledged for answering the information survey and for providing abstracts upon request. An additional program, the Aquatic and Wetland Plant Bibliographic database, is included: although not a distribution database, it contains citations for a great deal of literature, including geographical accounts on nonindigenous aquatic and wetland plants.

Source and descriptive information on nonindigenous plant data programs is currently in demand. Indeed, knowledge of these databases is necessary for improving interagency coordination in the effort against nonindigenous plants. Knowledge of elements that are useful to others can help data managers determine beneficial elements for their own program.

While the emphasis of this report was initially on identifying databases within federal agencies, many exemplary programs were also discovered at state agencies, universities, and nongovernment organizations. The 18 databases noted in this report are the results only of an initial search. In light of FICMNEW's interest in the management of nonindigenous plants and their interest in a national system for storing and disseminating information about weed occurrences (Federal Interagency Committee on Noxious and Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW). 1997. Pulling Together: National Strategy for Invasive Plant Management, U.S. Government Printing Office. 22 pp.), it is suggested that the inventory of these types of databases continue.

[ Introduction ] [ Background on Issues ] [ Workshop highlights ]

[ Table 1 ] [ Table 2 ] [ List of Participants ] [ List of Acronyms ]

[ Information Survey ] [ Catalog of Databases ] [ Report Documentation ]

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Biological Resources Division