Natural England's Environmental Monitoring Database (EMD)

This project has developed over the last twelve years and has been the largest undertaken by BioEcoSS Ltd. It began life as the Agri-Environment Monitoring Archive (AEMA), developed for the Rural Development Service of DEFRA. At this stage, it held all the ecological data from the Environmentally Sensistive Area (ESA) monitoring programme since its inception in 1987. It also held data from the monitoring of the Set-Aside and Habitat schemes. Subsequently, with the merger of RDS and English Nature to form Natural England (NE), AEMA was rebranded as the Environmental Monitoring Database (EMD). It has become the major repository for NE's ecological monitoring data, including the Stewardship Scheme, the Phase II Grassland Inventory and the Heathland Grazing Management Database.

EMD has been developed in Microsoft Access as a stand-alone application. It comprises a Catalogue of over 330 surveys, with a Repository that currently holds over 4.5 million data items. It has a modular structure, currently with three elements:

a) The main EMD module. This allows users to navigate through the Catalogue to find the datasets of particular interest. From here they can “drill-down” into the Repository to display form views of individual site or quadrat data, or full tabular datasheet views of taxonomic or other types of data. This module also has comprehensive search facilities allowing geographic, taxonomic or subject-based searches through the Repository. Specified users have data-entry facilities, including custom-data entry forms and double-keying.
b) The EMD Administrator module allows the Database Administrator to create surveys and define variables to hold data of almost any structure or type. They can create custom data entry forms with pre-defined species lists and validation. The Administrator module also allows comprehensive import of data from external sources and links to GI systems. Most importantly, this module allows the creation of “Workers” – identical copies of AEMA holding specific datasets, which can be sent to other offices or sub-contractors for data input and then returned for collation into the master database.
c) The Rapid Condition Assessment Module allows data collected using the Lowland Grassland method devised by English Nature. It provides a custom front-end, for ease of data entry whilst the data are stored in the main AEMA Repository. The module also carries out sophisticated analyses of the data to derive a condition score for each site, based either on statutory or user-defined targets.