About the Database

Database Overview

Inventory is a fundamental element of ecosystem stewardship, providing essential information on the distribution and status of resources and processes within ecosystems. Systematic inventory informs and therefore precedes assessment, planning, management action, and monitoring.

We have defined three levels of inventory:

Level 1: involves a general reconnaissance survey of springs within a landscape or land management unit, including brief (15 -20 minute) site visits to record georeferencing data and access directions, photograph the source and microhabitat array, and note the basic features of the springs ecosystem, such as biota and flow. This level of inventory is useful for identifying the distribution of springs across a landscape, and determining the need for more rigorous inventories.

Level 2: involves a detailed inventory of a springs ecosystem to describe baseline physical, biological, socio-cultural, and administrative context variables. These are detailed below.

Level 3: requires long-term monitoring and research of Level II variables for selected springs.

We developed Springs Online with the capacity to contain and analyze individual or multiple surveys of springs across landscapes. For Level 2 surveys, we focus on six categories recognized by experts as being important to the ecological form, function, and sustainability of springs. These categories include:

  1.  Groundwater geochemistry and flow
  2. Geomorphology,
  3. Habitat and soils,
  4. Flora and fauna,
  5. Human influences, and
  6. Administrative (legal and managerial) context. 

Each Level 2 survey consists of two parts: a Springs Inventory Protocol (SIP) and a Springs Ecological Assessment Protocol (SEAP). The inventory component focuses on the physical characteristics and condition of the springs ecosystem. The SEAP component is a process of evaluating the inventory data as well as other external information to generate a condition and risk score in each of the categories.

Fig. 2: Dr. Larry Stevens collecting inventory data, Merritt Spring, Coconino National Forest, Arizona

The database facilitates archival storage of qualitative and quantitative information within these categories to document present conditions, establish a baseline for future reference, inform the assessment process, guide monitoring, evaluate stewardship efforts, and monitor changes influenced by aquifer depletion, climate change, and other factors for individual springs,  or for many springs across a landscape. A small team of experts with knowledge of geography, hydrology, biology, socioeconomics, and anthropology can gather field information, typically in about 1.5 to 3 hours, and record it on standardized field sheets.

The database forms match the format of the field sheets to allow an individual with limited training to enter the information quickly and easily. Although it is possible to enter some, if not all, of the data in the field (should you have internet access), this method lacks a paper trail that is of great value. The Level 2 inventory field sheet includes 8 pages for data entry, and one key page that lists dropdown box options within the database. The system is designed to be user-friendly, and is populated with drop-down fields that facilitate data entry while minimizing the chance of errors. Buttons and tabs allow the operator to easily move between forms.

Database Structure

Springs Online is an online application with a MySQL database, and resides on a secure server at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff at http://springsdata.org/index.php. We have tested it more completely with Firefox and Chrome, and resolved any issues that we encountered. There are several known issues with Internet Explorer, although they are relatively obscure. 

The database offers easy methods to enter, retrieve, and analyze inventory data, making it accessible for landowners and managing agencies as well as researchers to use and improve the quality and integration of information about springs.

The database is organized into two primary tables – Sites and Surveys. The Sites table contains general information about the location (such as spring type, geology, a site description, and georeferencing). The Surveys table contains information collected on a specific date (such as flow, water quality, and fauna). The relationship between these tables is one-to-many, meaning there can be many surveys associated with one site. Each survey is associated with a Project, with a many-to-one relationship, allowing multiple surveys for a project. Access to survey data is based on the Project as well as the Land Unit, as discussed in the Permissions section below. Watch a short video about this here.

Primary Database Table Structure