New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2001) 25(2): 1- 17

Managing biodiversity information: development of New Zealand's National Vegetation Survey databank

Research Article
Susan K. Wiser  
Peter J. Bellingham  
Larry E. Burrows  
  1. Landcare Research, P.O. Box 69, Canterbury 8152, New Zealand

The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) databank is designed to safeguard the investment of millions of dollars spent over the last 50 years collecting, computerising and checking New Zealand vegetation data and to optimise the potential knowledge gains from these data. Data such as these can be synthesised across a range of spatial and temporal scales, allow novel ecological questions to be considered, and can underpin land management and legal reporting obligations. The NVS databank builds largely on the base of data collected under the auspices of the New Zealand Forest Service from the 1940s to 1987. In more recent years, it has incorporated data from Protected Natural Area (PNA) surveys and from new and remeasured plots in a range of ecosystems collected by staff of, among others, the Department of Conservation, Landcare Research, regional councils and universities. The databank currently stores data from approximately 14 000 permanent plots, 52 000 reconnaissance descriptions and PNA plots, and 14 000 timber volume plots measured in the 1940s and 1950s. Ecosystems that are best represented are grasslands in montane and alpine areas and indigenous forests. Geographic coverage is widespread but patchy. As the NVS databank continues to develop and grow, a range of data management issues are being addressed. These include (i) developing mechanisms to meet the needs of both data users and data providers and incentives to encourage individuals and organisations to deposit data into the databank, (ii) ensuring that metadata are adequate to allow raw data to be interpreted, and (iii) ensuring that the data stored meet set quality standards. In the future, the databank will take advantage of changing technology to best meet the needs of data users and providers. Further information about the NVS databank can be obtained from