Global: World species list under review


Juliette Jowit reported on yesterday that the world plant species list is undergoing a massive cull. More than 600,000 records will probably be deleted from the database of life because they are duplicates, or not 'new'.

Nailing down the true number of species is crucial to achieving Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), which is "a widely accessible working list of all known plant species, as a step towards a complete world flora". This recent work should bring the known number of flowering plants down to about 400,000 species, which fits many recent estimates including Paton et al 2008, who estimated 352,000.

blue berry sitting among dark green conifer needles

The classification and naming of many species is open to huge amounts of debate. Juniperus (pictured is Juniperus communis ), for example, is a genus with a raft of different species, sections, varieties, and sub-species to argue over.

Many of the comments on the Guardian story are strangely negative, but surely this isn't too damming for Linnaeus's 350 year old system, which has had disparate scientists adding entries for centuries, with little ability to communicate with other like-minded souls around the world.

The re-calculation is also timely. As Nagoya's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting fast approaches, and with global biodiversity targets still failing to be met, it's important that there are some success stories to be reported.

Related links:

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