Banque Europeenne de donnees polliniques
Centre Universitaire Espace Van Gogh
A European Pollen Database (EPD) is now being developed to provide for all palynologists a permanent archive of the basic data generated by pollen analysts in Europe, a tool for further research on palaeoecological and biogeographical problems at a variety of temporal and spatial scales, and a primary data-source for furthering our understanding of past environmental history at a time when research on Global Change is becoming increasingly important.
The European Pollen Database project is centralized in Arles, France. Its personnel consist of a post-doctoral scientist (R. Cheddadi) working closely with Joel Guiot and Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu. The EPD has an Executive Committee responsible for overseeing the development of the project and for finding further financial support for the project. There is also an Advisory Board responsible for protocols, assisting with pollen-taxonomic and related problems, and arbitration in any disputes between contributors, users, or coordinators. The composition of the Executive Committee is currently Brigitta Ammann, Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu and Brian Huntley. The Advisory Board consists of Karl-Ernst Behre (Wilhelmshaven), John Birks (Bergen), Elizaveta Bozilova (Sofia), Maria Follieri (Rome), Marie-Jose Gaillard-Lemdahl, George Jacobson Jr., Roel Janssen (Utrecht), Meilute Kabailiene (Vilnius), Magdalena Ralska-Jasiewiczowa (Cracow).
The Advisory Board have resolved that data compilation shall give priority to sites that formed part of the IGCP 158B sub-project.
It was agreed that high data quality must be guaranteed, and that high taxonomic standards and sound radiocarbon chronologies were essential. The database must contain the data in their entirety for all sites contributed. The data to be compiled and stored will extend far beyond the pollen counts. Precise details of the site location, the present vegetation surrounding the site, the sediment lithology, the chronology, all bibliographic details relating to published accounts of the site, and the name(s) and address(es) of the worker(s) who sampled and analyzed the site will be included in the database.
The database coordinators must cooperate closely with the contributors, with regional advisors and groups and with the Advisory Board in order to resolve pollen-taxonomic questions. Appropriate protocols are in progress for these purposes.
The protocols for the database were discussed and agreed by the Advisory Board at its meeting of the 22nd September 1990 at Wilhelmshaven. In the event that it becomes necessary to modify them in the future, all database contributors and users will be notified and the changes will be published in a Newsletter.
At present there are three directly related database subprojects and one indirectly related database project. The three subprojects are concerned with specific geographical areas or temporal aspects and were, at their outset, designed to be integral components of the EPD. They consist of:
The initiation of other regional or thematical database groups are in progress.
Following discussion, it was decided to use the relational database package PARADOX (version 3.5) to build the database. This software is widely available and runs on IBM PC-compatible computers under DOS; it is also being adopted by the North American Pollen Database, thus application software developments can be shared.
The EPD closely collaborates with the NOAA NGDC American pollen database project coordinated by Eric Grimm and John Keltner, particularly in connections with computer software development.
In January 1991 the first Newsletter including a questionnaire has been sent to European Quaternary palynologists. To-date 90 respondents have offered data from different parts of Europe and already 440 sites situated in more than 20 countries have been offered.
In order to compile and record all of this information a series of data recording sheets was prepared and sent to contributors.
The teams involved in the technical management of the database and in the compilation of data (Arles, Cambridge, Durham and Springfield) have spent much of the last six months solving software problems and laying foundations for the data compilation that is now underway.
The PARADOX table structure has been modified in several respects in the light of experience and to facilitate the preparation of scripts that will allow the data in the tables to be manipulated and/or queried more efficiently. Scripts to prepare the empty tables have been written and the tables are now in use as data compilation has gotten underway.
The EPD is now ready to welcome in Arles all scientists who wish to be trained in the software and programs used by the database. The first data release is estimated to be available in about one year from now following the EPD protocol.
Support was obtained from the European Science Foundation that will enable the Executive Committee to organize a workshop meeting on "Computer management of pollen data in relation to human impact and climatic changes" that will take place in Arles in the spring of 1992. These funds will enable some younger scientists from central and eastern Europe, as well as the Advisory Board, to attend the meeting and will afford the opportunity for some of these workers to extend their stay in Arles by a few days to be trained in the use of the E.P.D. software available at that time. The Advisory Board will meet during the workshop to deal with EPD business. A particular matter that requires attention is that of the synonymy and hierarchic relations of the pollen taxa listed to-date. It will probably prove necessary to organize working group meetings to deal with some aspects of this problem.
The funding obtained from the EC allowed launching the database for the first two years. The Advisory Board has now to insure the survival of the database structure after that period.