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Development of the Asian-Pacific Alien Species Database (Apasd)
Masaharu Matsui1, Koushi Nishiyama1, Yasuo Ogawa1, Toshiki Shiomi1, Akihiro Konuma1 and Kohji Yasuda2
1Department of Biological Safety and
2Natural Resources Inventory Center
National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences
Kannondai 3-1-3, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8604, Japan, 2005-11-01

Abstract

Recently, the rate of introduction of invasive alien species has increased along with increases in global trade and human travel. The economic damage and ecological impacts caused by these alien species have also been increasing. To address this problem of alien species invasion and minimize the damage they cause, an Internet database was developed to facilitate sharing of information among countries in the Asian and Pacific region, and to easily accumulate and search data on various species existing in each country. The Asian-Pacific Alien Species Database (APASD) was introduced at an international seminar held in Tsukuba, Japan, in 2003. Since then, aspects of the APASD system have been improved. For example, a function to convert the English language APASD to other languages has been added, and data input has continued. This paper outlines the functions of the APASD, details some of the features and additional functions of the system, and addresses issues that need to be overcome in the future.

Introduction

WHY the Database Was Developed

Increased worldwide trade and travel has accelerated the unintentional and intentional introduction of invasive alien species. Plants, animals including insects, and microbes have invaded many countries and are causing major damages in the Asia-Pacific region. To establish measures to prevent the spread of serious invasive species and minimize their economic and environmental impacts, there is a need to study their spread and predict their population dynamics in the region. At the same time, information on invasive alien species needs to be shared among countries to reduce the economic and environmental impacts of these invaders.

For this purpose, it is important to develop an Internet database to enable the sharing of recent information on invasive alien species among countries in the Asia-Pacific region. This database needs to be operated as a valuable regional resource in coordination with other international databases on invasive alien species.

Development of the Apasd

An international seminar on "Biological Invasions: Environmental Impacts and the Development of a Database for the Asian-Pacific Region," sponsored by the National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences (NIAES), Japan and the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC) for the Asian and Pacific Region was held in November 2003 in Tsukuba, Japan. As a result of the said activity, the NIAES developed a database system named the Asian-Pacific Alien Species Database or APASD (http://apasd-niaes.dc.affrc.go.jp/apasd2/), intended to facilitate the collection and dissemination of information on invasive alien species within the region. To date, the database is still in the development stage, and requires more data inputs on invasive alien species from Japan and other countries.

The APASD system has since been considerably improved after the seminar. Improvements include a function for language conversion from English to other languages such as Japanese.

Description of the Apasd

During the seminar in Tsukuba, Japan in 2003, the NIAES presented a demonstration of the features, uses and functions of the APASD (Yamanaka and Matsui 2003). However, it is very important that the system be reintroduced, particularly to highlight the improvements and new additions in the system.

Operating system. The APASD is relational and is operated in English. It is designed to run on Linux-based systems using an Apache server. The network uses the PHP server-side language to interact with a Postgre SQL database.

Database structure. The APASD has a four-layer structure: the first part is for users who read the data on the Internet; the second is for contributors who input data; the third is for general administrators who input organism names and synonyms and register data input by contributors into the regular system; and the fourth is for special administrators who register IDs and passwords of contributors and general administrators ( Fig. 1(1269)).

The database is constructed with two systems: one is a temporal system whereby contributors input data, and the other is the regular system whereby users can see data. General administrators check the data input by contributors from the temporal system and then register it in the regular system ( Fig. 2(1289)). They can also renew master tables such as species names, what's new, links, and some categories such as information on the species' establishment situation, possibility of hybridization, habitat and so on.

Features of Apasd

Relational Database

The APASD can store a large amount of information on many invasive alien species in many countries. Contributors can input various data items, and can modify, add, or delete them easily and rapidly. Users can easily search for and read much information on specific species and items. Because contributors can renew their data anytime, it is easy to obtain updated information on invasive alien species.

Asia-Pacific Region Coverage

The target of the database is the Asia-Pacific region, with emphasis on the Asian region. The region is very wide and includes different biogeographical areas, but there are some common characteristics; for example, the countries exist in neighboring zones and are being seriously invaded by invasive alien species from other, relatively distant biogeographical regions such as North and South America.

Target Species

The target species of the APASD are those organisms (for example, plants, insects, nematodes, mammals, other animals, fungi, bacteria, viruses) that have invaded the agro-ecosystems. The APASD includes information on both species that cause economic damage and species that have environmental impacts on biodiversity ( Fig. 3(1140)).

Type of Information

The purpose of the APASD is to help prevent the invasion and spread of these species and to reduce the economic and environmental damage caused by them. Therefore, useful information for early detection, emergency control, integrated pest management (IPM), and risk assessment must be inputted. Data on invasive alien species such as plants, insects, nematodes, mammals, other animals, fungi, bacteria, and viruses are accumulated with regard to taxonomy, establishment, distribution, environmental impact, economic damage, reproduction, growth, countermeasure, habitat, photographs of alien species and damage, and reference literature ( Fig. 4(1135)). If a very important species has invaded certain countries, contributors in those countries can input updated data and inform clients in countries where the species is already present or where there is a threat of invasion.

Comparison of Species Data among Countries

Users can compare various types of data about a target species from different countries. For example, they can compare data on the expansion of distribution areas of the golden apple snail, Pomacea canaliculata, from Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan ( Fig. 5(1125)); these data are being inputted by local contributors. Users can also compare data on several items, such as expansion, environmental impact, economic damage, reproduction, growth, and control strategies shown at the upper part of the page where species list is indicated. This makes it easy for users to understand the status of species invasion in various countries and to confirm the validity of the data by comparison.

Use of References

In this database, it is desirable that the data be described with reference not only to literature written in English but also to those written in the native language of each participating country. However, the titles of papers written in native languages must be translated into English for inputting into the database. Contributors can input not only summaries and whole papers but also data and figures such as distribution areas and annual spread in PDF format that can be found in the reference table.

Improvements in the Apasd

Language Conversion

The APASD is written in English in order to better disseminate information on invasive alien species among the countries in the region. However, APASD in local languages are needed for the benefit of clients such as farmers, local government officers, and extension officers in each country to enable them to better understand the information.

For this purpose, a new function was developed that converts the APASD written in English to APASDs in other languages. For example, there is now a Japanese language APASD. This was done by translating the words from English to the native language ( Fig. 6(1179)). Collaboration between NIAES and institutes in other countries is needed for the development of new APASDs that operate in languages other than English.

Screening of Target Literature in the Master Table

Users can search the literature by using keywords from a master reference table. Many references inputted by contributors for various invasive alien species are stored in a master reference table. Users can search the literature by selecting `Search for reference' on the upper part of the page and then keying in the author's name and/or part of the title and/or keywords.

Synonyms for Species Names

Sometimes the same organism has different taxonomic names. For example, one organism may have different order or family name, or even different species name. In this database, if users click "substantially same species (Group)" under the organism name in the main table, a list of synonyms or substantially same species appears on the next screen ( Fig. 7(1158)). Then, users can search for all data on the species by visiting each of the synonyms and substantially same species one by one.

Future Challenges

  • 1. Construction of a network of coordinators in the Asia-Pacific region is a very important priority in order to accelerate the data input. The cooperative relationship built among the attendees of the 2003 international seminar in Japan and this 2004 workshop in Taiwan is vital to the success of the database. Data from the proceedings of both activities will be added to the database in cooperation with the coordinators and the NIAES group.
  • 2. If any organization or institute in the region would want to develop new APASDs in their native language for the benefit of farmers, extension officers, and others, then this can be done in cooperation with the NIAES. As there is no direct connection between the English version APASD and any native language version APASDs, administrators in each country can manage their own native language APASD freely ( Fig. 8(1126)). It is therefore important for the data to be translated and inputted in the English and native language database, and stored in each database, with copyright permission.
  • 3. There is a need to build up a good relationship and linkage with other international projects and their databases on invasive alien species, particularly the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP). GISP encourages each region and country to have its own database, which can be linked to the GISP. Also, to ensure the taxonomic accuracy of invasive alien species, there is a need to complement any insufficiencies in the taxonomic data in the APASD. For this purpose, links to taxonomic databases such as the Lucidcentral (www.lucidcentral.org/keys/v3/aquarium/Aquarium%20Plants.html) are very important.
  • 4. The frame of the database system has yet to be completed, but now the focus of improvement will shift more toward making the database easier to use by considering users' needs and opinions.

Conclusions

In recent years, the economic and environmental damages caused by invasive alien species have been increasing worldwide, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Measures to control these species are being enforced internationally and in each country, but efforts to disseminate the results of studies on, and experiences with, invasive alien species in each country through the Internet have only just begun. There is a rare opportunity to share information on invasive alien species by constructing a common database for the Asia-Pacific region.

GISP, an international organization, conducts activities such as international conferences in an effort to strengthen the capacities of regions and countries in their fight against invasive alien species. The Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), a part of GISP, has developed a database (http://issg.appfa.auckland.ac.nz/database/welcome/) and a list of "100 of the World's Worst Invasive Species" (http://issg.appfa.auckland.ac.nz/database/species/search.asp?st=100ss&fr=

1&sts= ). However, this database covers only a small number of invasive alien species, such as agricultural pests, that inhabit the agro-ecosystems. GISP recommends the building of a database in each region and each country, and to link with those databases. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) also has working groups that are concerned with efforts toward making the identification system of invasive alien species, such as plants and aquatic organisms, for diagnostic purposes. However, the construction of a database on invasive alien species targeting the Asia-Pacific region is not yet complete. In the future, if the APASD becomes widely recognized as a good tool for the investigation and dissemination of invasive alien species, it may develop a close linkage with the APEC.

In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted internationally. The CBD states that one of the serious threats to biodiversity is invasive alien species, and that each country should prevent the introduction of, control, or eradicate those alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats, or species (Article 8:h). Furthermore, the CBD states that the exchange of information should include the sharing of results of technical, scientific, and socioeconomic research, as well as information on training and survey programs, specialized knowledge, and indigenous and traditional knowledge (Article 17) (www.biodiv.org/convention/articles.asp). Thus, the CBD recognizes the development of a database on invasive alien species to be very important.

The APASD has been further developed since the international seminar held in Tsukuba in 2003. Technical improvements have continued, making it more functional and user friendly. The system is also nearly complete, although data build up must be enhanced. There is a need to increase the amount of data by inputting the results of studies and information in Japan and other countries in the region, and by adding information from the proceedings of the seminar held in 2003 and the workshop in 2004. International networking is considered very important, especially among the participants who attended the two activities

The addition of the language-conversion function will lead to the development of new APASDs, which will operate in native languages. To achieve this aim, there should be collaboration between institutes in Asian countries and the NIAES.

Finally, the database is expected to grow and improve steadily, and in the long term, it is envisioned to become a useful tool for the development of sustainable agriculture and conservation of the environment in the Asia-Pacific region. The database will likewise facilitate communication on issues concerning invasive alien species among countries in the region. To achieve this goal, cooperation among all interest groups from all Asia-Pacific countries is vital.

Index of Images

Figure 1 Layer Structure of the Functions of the Apasd

Figure 1 Layer Structure of the Functions of the Apasd

Figure 2 The Flow Chart of the Apasd

Figure 2 The Flow Chart of the Apasd

Figure 3 The Features of the Apasd

Figure 3 The Features of the Apasd

Figure 4 The Kinds of Inptu Data of the Apasd

Figure 4 The Kinds of Inptu Data of the Apasd

Figure 5 Comparison of the Data of Specific Items on a Species among Countries

Figure 5 Comparison of the Data of Specific Items on a Species among Countries

Figure 6 Conversion from the English Apasd to the Japanese Apasd.

Figure 6 Conversion from the English Apasd to the Japanese Apasd.

Figure 7 Indication of Different Order Names of the Golden Apple Snail.

Figure 7 Indication of Different Order Names of the Golden Apple Snail.

Figure 8 An Idea of the Relationship of the Databases after Developing New Apasds Using Each Native Language in Asia Pacificcountries

Figure 8 An Idea of the Relationship of the Databases after Developing New Apasds Using Each Native Language in Asia Pacificcountries

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