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Uncertainty in georeferencing current and historic plant locations

January 1, 2009

With shrinking habitats, weed invasions, and climate change, repeated surveys are becoming increasingly important for rare plant conservation and ecological restoration. We often need to relocate historical sites or provide locations for newly restored sites. Georeferencing is the technique of giving geographic coordinates to the location of a site. Georeferencing has been done historically using verbal descriptions or field maps that accompany voucher collections. New digital technology gives us more exact techniques for mapping and storing location information. Error still exists, however, and even georeferenced locations can be uncertain, especially if error information is not included with the observation. We review the concept of uncertainty in georeferencing and compare several institutional database systems for cataloging error and uncertainty with georeferenced locations. These concepts are widely discussed among geographers, but ecologists and restorationists need to become more aware of issues related to uncertainty to improve our use of spatial information in field studies. ?? 2009 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.