The principles for creating an authoritative list of the world’s species, published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, include a defined role for taxonomists alongside other stakeholders such as conservationists and governments
A new effort is underway to create an overarching list of all the world’s plant and animal species, the Independent reports.
Currently there is no single compendium of all of our planet’s species, with some types, such as mammals, the focus of numerous indexes, while other groups are not represented on lists at all.
A comprehensive catalogue of every species will help conservationists, scientists, governments and other organizations understand and protect the biodiversity on Earth.
Researchers hope a single recognized list would improve global efforts to tackle biodiversity loss, the trade in endangered wildlife, biosecurity and conservation.
With at least 26 competing concepts, biologists have never reached agreement over what constitutes a species, the most basic classification of an organism.
As a result, conservation organizations, national governments and scientists often use separate lists of mammals, fungi and other organisms with differing taxonomic descriptions.
“The general public are identifying with these entities they call species and they think they’re real biological, natural units rather than being a slice in time that is a human construct,” said the lead author Stephen Garnett, a professor of conservation and sustainable livelihoods at Charles Darwin University in Australia.
A widely used definition of a species centres on whether a group of living things can exchange DNA by creating viable offspring. But in several cases, the lines between species are blurred, causing disagreement between taxonomists – the scientists who discover, name and classify species.
The principles for creating an authoritative list of the world’s species, published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, include a defined role for taxonomists alongside other stakeholders such as conservationists and governments.
The species lists would be based on science, separate the governance of naming species from the governance of validating species and be fully traceable, according to the proposals.
Although projects like the Catalogue of Life are already working on creating a comprehensive global index of species, it has not been universally adopted by taxonomists, governments or conservation organisations.