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Kew Bulletin

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Alpha e-taxonomy: responses from the systematics community to the biodiversity crisis

  • S. J. Mayo
  • R. Allkin
  • W. Baker
  • V. Blagoderov
  • I. Brake
  • B. Clark
  • R. Govaerts
  • C. Godfray
  • A. Haigh
  • R. Hand
  • K. Harman
  • M. Jackson
  • N. Kilian
  • D. W. Kirkup
  • I. Kitching
  • S. Knapp
  • G. P. Lewis
  • P. Malcolm
  • E. von Raab-Straube
  • D. M. Roberts
  • M. Scoble
  • D. A. Simpson
  • C. Smith
  • V. Smith
  • S. Villalba
  • L. Walley
  • P. Wilkin
Article

Summary

The crisis facing the conservation of biodiversity is reflected in a parallel crisis in alpha taxonomy. On one hand, there is an acute need from government and non-government organisations for large-scale and relatively stable species inventories on which to build major biodiversity information systems. On the other, molecular information will have an increasingly important impact on the evidential basis for delimiting species and is likely to result in greater scientific debate and controversy on their circumscription. This paper argues that alpha-taxonomy built on the Internet (alpha e-taxonomy) can provide a key component of the solution. Two main themes are considered: (1) the potential of e-taxonomic revisions for engaging both the specialist taxonomic community and a wider public in gathering taxonomic knowledge and deepening understanding of it, and (2) why alpha-species will continue to play an essential role in the conventional definition of species and what kinds of methodological development this implies for descriptive species taxonomy. The challenges and requirements for sustaining e-taxonomic revisions in the long-term are discussed, with particular reference to models being developed by five initiatives with botanical exemplar websites: CATE (Creating a Taxonomic E-Science), Solanaceae Source, GrassBase and EDIT (European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy) exemplar groups and scratchpads. These projects give a clear indication of the crucially important role of the national and regional taxonomic organisations and their networks in providing both leadership and a fruitful and beneficial human and technical environment for taxonomists, both amateur and professional, to contribute their expertise towards a collective global enterprise.

Key words.

alpha e-taxonomy biodiversity systematics 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to two reviewers for their comments and suggestions. We are also very grateful for the financial support received from the UK Natural Environment Research Council, grant numbers NE//C001532/1; NE/C51588X/2; NE/C515871/1.

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Copyright information

© The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. J. Mayo
    • 1
  • R. Allkin
    • 1
  • W. Baker
    • 1
  • V. Blagoderov
    • 2
  • I. Brake
    • 2
  • B. Clark
    • 3
  • R. Govaerts
    • 1
  • C. Godfray
    • 3
  • A. Haigh
    • 1
  • R. Hand
    • 4
  • K. Harman
    • 1
  • M. Jackson
    • 1
  • N. Kilian
    • 4
  • D. W. Kirkup
    • 1
  • I. Kitching
    • 2
  • S. Knapp
    • 2
  • G. P. Lewis
    • 1
  • P. Malcolm
    • 1
  • E. von Raab-Straube
    • 4
  • D. M. Roberts
    • 2
  • M. Scoble
    • 2
  • D. A. Simpson
    • 1
  • C. Smith
    • 2
  • V. Smith
    • 2
  • S. Villalba
    • 1
  • L. Walley
    • 2
  • P. Wilkin
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Botanic Gardens KewRichmondUK
  2. 2.The Natural History MuseumLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  4. 4.Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin—DahlemFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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