Canadian Forest Service Publications

Computer-driven image-based soil fauna taxonomy. 1991. Moldenke, A.; Shaw, C.; Boyle, J.R. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 34(1-4):177-185.

Year: 1991

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35541

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/0167-8809(91)90103-5

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Mark record


The study of soil ecology has long been hampered by the diversity of species and functional groups of soil fauna. Many of these taxa are poorly studied and integrated taxonomic references are unavailable on a regional basis. We used HyperCard, a hypermedia program for the Macintosh computer, to develop COMTESA (computer taxonomy and ecology of soil animals). COMTESA is an image-based, taxonomic key for soil fauna, which also acts as a data base to store ecological information about the organisms. Multilevel linking within COMTESA allows the user to peruse the module in a non-linear fashion so that learning can proceed at an individualized pace that is driven by curiosity. Its basic design can be useful to all levels of users from novice to experienced soil zoologist. COMTESA is conceptually divided into two parts designed to deal with different scales of resolution. Part I distinguishes 150 different functional/taxonomic groups, has an ecological emphasis and should be useful throughout North America. Part II consists of modules that provide identification to the generic and species level and are specific to region/site/ecosystem. Within the community of individuals involved in soil ecology research the demand is high for those with skills in identification of soil fauna. Since few individuals are knowledgeable in this area, the burden for identification of specimens falls either on inadequately trained ecologists or upon the limited resource of taxonomic specialists. COMTESA can offer a partial solution to this problem of "communication". Taxonomists can use COMTESA to produce user-friendly regional keys that can be rapidly updated and quickly distributed to users at a low cost. Ecologists would have better resolution in their results, and by high-grading their samples could provide material more likely of interest to the taxonomists. Successful integration would generate broader interest and support for the multidisciplinary basic research that needs to be done. A simplified version could be introduced to science classes in the secondary education system, to expose a new generation of potential taxonomists and soil ecologists to the world of soil biology.