Refereed Article A quality control protocol for terrestrial invertebrate biodiversity assessment

Citation: Wilkie, L; Cassis, G; Gray, M.R. 2003. A quality control protocol for terrestrial invertebrate biodiversity assessment. Biodiversity and Conservation. 12. (1): 121-146.


A procedure for the implementation of quality control for laboratorysorting and identification of invertebrate specimens collected in biodiversityresearch is described. The procedure is based on process control sampling, aconcept of statistical process control (SPC) used widely in the manufacturingand information technology industries, and adapted to suit the tasks andproducts of biodiversity sorting procedures. The major advantages of processcontrol over other quality control mechanisms are that it is more stringent, andcontinuous. Hence, errors are detected and corrected as they occur, avoidingproliferation in the data set. The procedure is also highly interactive,offering the technicians the opportunity to learn as they work. Protocols havebeen developed while sorting material collected as part of a study into theimpacts associated with invasion of a habitat (coastal heath) by an exotic weed (bitou bush - Chrysanthemoides monilifera) on thecentral coast of New South Wales, Australia. Major findings from the analysis ofmaterial processed include: that errors may have a variety of causes andsubsequent implications for data quality, levels of identification errors can besignificant even at higher taxonomic levels (e.g. sorting insects to order),initial training periods on their own are insufficient to ensure errorminimisation, and even with stringent protocols the ratio of technician tospecialist effort can be maintained at a level of around 5:1. The need forincorporating effective quality control procedures into invertebratebiodiversity data compilations is emphasised.

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