Palaeontological databases for palaeobiogeography, palaeoecology and biodiversity: a question of scale
Paul J. Markwick, Richard Lupia, 2002. "Palaeontological databases for palaeobiogeography, palaeoecology and biodiversity: a question of scale", Palaeobiogeography and Biodiversity Change: the Ordovician and Mesozoic–Cenozoic Radiations, J. A. Crame, A. W. Owen
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Computerized databases provide an essential tool for investigating large-scale spatial and temporal palaeontological problems. Although advances in both software and hardware have made the logistics of building a database much easier, fundamental problems remain concerning the representation and qualification of the data. Data from the fossil record are highly heterogeneous. Databases must be designed to account for variations in scale (grain, resolution), inconsistency in the data, and potential errors (inaccuracy). These issues vary with the scope of the study (extent), the biological group, and the nature and scale-dependence of supplementary, non-biological datasets (e.g. climate and ocean parameters). With the application of desktop geographic information systems (GIS) to global Earth systems science, and the ability to efficiently integrate and query large, diverse datasets, the need to ensure robust qualification of data, especially scale, has become all the more essential. This chapter examines some of the issues involved, defines terminology and offers pragmatic solutions.