TROPIS Update #1, July 1996
1. Welcome to TROPIS Update
Welcome to TROPIS Update, a periodic newsletter to update contributors, clients and other interested people about TROPIS, the Tree gROwth and Permanent Plot Information System, a joint CIFOR-IUFRO initiative. You will get this by email or post if you contributed, made a search, asked for information, or were nominated by one of your colleagues as a "contact-person" for some plots. I plan to circulate a brief Update about every six months, and hope that it finds a comfortable balance between keeping you informed, and not burdening you with too much paper. I welcome suggestions and contributions.
Anyone may subscribe (free of charge), to the email version by sending the email message "SUBSCRIBE TROPIS" to LISTSERV@CGNET.COM, or to the postal version by sending a request to Rita Mustikasari at CIFOR. Conversely, to stop your subscription, send the email "UNSUBSCRIBE TROPIS" to LISTSERV@CGNET.COM, or simply let me know that your interests have changed.
2. Background to TROPIS stage 1
The enduring objective of TROPIS is facilitate better use of growth data from permanent plots. The original concept (c. 1991) was apparently to provide a simple catalogue of plots attributes and their custodians, but it later (c. 1993) became more ambitious and encompassed plans to interface several existing information systems. Although some of these later proposals have merit, I felt it efficient to institute a staged implementation, with the first stage involving a rapid introduction of a plot catalogue, as originally envisaged. Thus the objectives of the first stage of TROPIS were defined as:
- provide a catalogue of permanent plot data, with details plot attributes and owners,
- define a standard format for data exchange to facilitate sharing of data, and
- provide computer programs to check, summarize and analyze data in standard format.
3. Notes from Informal Meeting at IUFRO Congress, August 1995
Several TROPIS collaborators were involved in the IUFRO Congress at Tampere, so we took advantage of the occasion to have an informal TROPIS meeting. Luis Ugalde, Ariel Lugo, John Turnbull, Fritz Mohren and I discussed various issues associated with TROPIS for about two hours on 6 August. I also met with many other TROPIS partners during the Congress.
Some issues that came up included:
- Data integrity: how have the data been collected?
- Recording plot details so they can be interrogated by computer
- Requirement for site, soil & climate data
We also discussed some possible benefits of TROPIS:
- avoid duplication, mutual benefits of sharing data;
allow rationalization of plot systems;
- help with the universal problem of keeping old data accessible;
- help scientists respond to changing needs (e.g. new interest in "close-to-nature" silviculture, but most existing data about pure stands);
- facilitate "value-adding" by making data more accessible, and allowing scientists to examine issues not previously amenable to empirical analysis;
- allow better analyses of growth trends over time and space;
offer the foundation for better growth models and yield tables.
We also commenced planning for the December workshop.
4. Notes from TROPIS Workshop, Bogor, 4-8 December 1995
Seven participants (Robert de Kock [Tropenbos, Indonesia], Vitoon Luangviriyasaeng [Royal Forest Department, Thailand], Peter Muraya [ICRAF, Kenya], Luis Ugalde [CATIE, Costa Rica], Rita Mustikasari [CIFOR], Tim Vercoe [Australian Tree Seed Centre], Howard Wright [Oxford Forestry Institute, UK]) joined a 5-day workshop at CIFOR to further develop the TROPIS concept. The workshop
- re-examined the objectives of TROPIS,
- identified stakeholders and their needs,
- examined several existing plot data management systems with a view to making TROPIS complementary and compatible (rather than duplicating existing capabilities), and
- constructed and commenced testing a prototype complete with information on 1000 plots.
While there was general agreement amongst workshop participants on the staged approach, and the three objectives of the first stage, we considered many options before reaching the following outcome:
We discussed the balance between sufficient detail and unnecessary complexity, and agreed on a database which will contain selected plot attributes, but no growth details, thus avoiding problems with property rights.
Data exchange may involve summarized (e.g. plot means) or raw (i.e. individual tree measurements) data. In the first case, a standard format seems unnecessary, and it the second case it may not convey much advantage since the user is likely to be computer-proficient and should inspect each plot measure before further use. Thus we concluded that a sufficient standard would be the .DBF database format or ASCII equivalent (data with standard delimiters or formatted in columns), provided that columns were clearly labelled with standard IUFRO symbols or otherwise clearly and unambiguously documented.
Provision of computerized plot data management systems may assist researchers without adequate systems, and may be provided most efficiently by adapting an existing system. We considered several alternatives, and concluded that it would be useful to make available an enhanced multi-lingual version of the MIRA system developed by Luis Ugalde at CATIE. Note that there is no obligation for TROPIS participants to use this (or any other) system.
Contributors to the TROPIS catalogue may include (1) those with sophisticated database systems, able to generate inputs for TROPIS by computer and to supply these on diskette; (2) those who draw both on computer summaries and manual inputs, who may prefer to use computerized forms to key data to disk; and (3) those who have limited computer facilities and who would prefer to use paper-based forms. Contributions from all three categories are equally important, and we aim to make it as easy as possible for all three groups to provide data. Prototype computerized forms (for category 2) were compiled during the workshop, and analogous paper-based forms were prepared later (and are now available). Contributors in the first category should contact CIFOR to discuss mutually convenient data formats.
5. Progress and Current Status of TROPIS
Progress during the first half of this year included:
- feedback on scope and design from partners,
- tests against stakeholder requirements,
- announcements in newsletters, on listservers and on Internet,
- targeted mailings to agencies thought to hold plot data.
At present, TROPIS contains pointers to 5515 plots with 1937 species, equally distributed between plantation and natural forests, and more-or-less equally distributed in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Australia-Pacific region. This information is based on contributions from 6 individuals in 48 countries: thank you all very much for your help.
Twenty people from 11 countries have requested 22 searches, 17 of which returned 2674 plots (from 56 contributors) matching search criteria. The five failed searches all occurred during the first three months, when TROPIS was less comprehensive. Most, but not all, of the contributions and searches were received via email.
6. Future Plans
The following activities are planned during the next few months:
- continue to solicit more information on permanent plots,
- enhance MIRA (standard platform, multi-lingual more capabilities),
- verifying information in TROPIS, with feedback to contributors,
- make TROPIS available on the Internet for self-service searches,
- access to WORLD and PLANTGRO when no empirical data are available.
More details in the next issue of TROPIS Update.
7. More Information
For more information on any of these items, any other aspect of TROPIS, or for information on how to contribute an entry to the TROPIS database, contact Rita Mustikasari at the address below.
CIFOR, PO Box 6596 JKPWB, Jakarta 10065, Indonesia.
Tel , Fax +62 251 622100.