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The basic data type in a GIS reflects traditional data found on a map. Accordingly, GIS technology utilizes two basic types of data. These are:

Spatial data

describes the absolute and relative location of geographic features.

Attribute data

describes characteristics of the spatial features. These characteristics can be quantitative and/or qualitative in nature. Attribute data is often referred to as tabular data.

The coordinate location of a forestry stand would be spatial data, while the characteristics of that forestry stand, e.g. cover group, dominant species, crown closure, height, etc., would be attribute data. Other data types, in particular image and multimedia data, are becoming more prevalent with changing technology. Depending on the specific content of the data, image data may be considered either spatial, e.g. photographs, animation, movies, etc., or attribute, e.g. sound, descriptions, narration's, etc.