1) Introduction - The Critical and Complex Nature of Springs
Toward the goal of developing a global initiative to improve springs stewardship, we have developed a methodology for inventory and assessment of the ecological health and functionality of these fragile resources. A comprehensive evaluation requires a survey of geomorphology, soils, geology, solar radiation, flora, fauna, water quality, flow, georeferencing, and cultural resources, as well as a thorough assessment of the site's condition and risks to the ecosystem. The information we collect in each category is complex, and many of the data are interrelated. For example, water quality is linked to flow, geology, geomorphology, soils, flora, and fauna. We have designed a relational database that provides a framework to cmmopile this information, and to analyze biological, physical, and cultural relationships, many of which are poorly understood.
A relational database should follow three primary rules. First, it should take no longer to enter data than it does to collect them. Although this may seem obvious, many databases are poorly designed, with methods that are not structured to facilitate data entry. Also, the interface should provide structure that assures consistency of data (for example, using drop-down boxes that refer to related look-up tables) while still providing flexibility for anomalous situations. Finding this balance can be challenging, and usually requires compromise of either flexibility or consistency. Last, it is critical that the information is accessible and useful once the data have been entered. Again, this seems obvious, but a surprising number of databases are designed with little forethought as to the wide range of data that researchers and managing agencies may want, beyond a few obvious standardized reports. The primary tables and the relationships between them are the foundation of a relational database, and determine whether or not it is possible to export meaningful data. It is important to provide a wide range of information products that are easily generated and exported. However, a database also should allow researchers to design complex queries that export data for unanticipated information needs.
Our Springs Inventory Database offers a user-friendly front-end interface using Microsoft Access 2007. It offers easy methods to enter, retrieve, and analyze inventory data, making it accessible for landowners and managing agencies as well as researchers to improve the quality and integration of information about springs.
Next Page -- 2) Database Overview