An innovative Web Processing Services based GIS architecture for global biogeographic analyses of species distributions
Spatial patterns and properties of species richness in natural communities are of keen interest to biogeographers and conservation biologists as they describe key features of the location and distribution of the earth's biological diversity, but species richness tools are scattered across specialty software and are underrepresented in distributed approaches for GIS for work with large datasets. We describe an ongoing development effort for producing macroecology and biogeography tools dealing with large species presence data structures using the Web Processing Service (WPS) specification and Quantum GIS (QGIS) as a WPS client. The creation of species presence/absence matrices is one approach for linking range size and richness patterns and these spatial patterns are well suited for GIS analysis. This paper presents our efforts to date on the development of the Lifemapper Range and Diversity (LmRAD) analysis suite for Lifemapper and on its potential contribution to global biodiversity research and conservation. LmRAD is being engineered as a job based infrastructure that is portable across compute environments for exposing macroecology algorithms for biodiversity calculations as WPS services, a client library for GIS and Scientific Workflow environment software that is tailored for communication using WPS and other OGC standards, and a client plug-in for QGIS. The practical importance of bringing a standardized spatial data processing standard into a distributed GIS environment for macroecology is that larger institutional computer resources can be brought to bear on large problems at vast scales, i.e. continental to global extents at high resolutions for thousands of species. Additionally the decoupled nature of the Web Services approach can allow scientists to mix and match tools in user defined workflows where metadata can be produced that allow experiment repeatability.