The Global Taxonomy Initiative: Shortening the Distance between Discovery and Delivery

Australian Biological Resources Study
Environment Australia, Department of the Environment and Heritage, 1998
ISBN-10 (printed): 0 642 56803 0
ISBN-13 (printed): 978 0 642 56803 8

Annexe 2
Sample Framework Projects

International marine waters projects

Background and justification

The deep oceans are the largest biome on earth and oceanic organisms are responsible for half of all global production. The deep oceans are a key component of global biogeochemical cycles that deliver two-thirds of the essential ecosystem productivity needed to maintain our society, but they are one of the least known and most biologically diverse systems.

The developed and developing world jointly manage the resources of the deep oceans. The extent of these resources is only recently becoming appreciated through expeditions involving oceanographic ships and submersibles. Priority needs to be given to making the taxonomic results of these expeditions, especially for those taxa in danger of being lost, generally available to all nations. Coastal and island nations have a particular need for this information to fulfil their obligations under the CBD. Such a programme would provide the means for capacity-building through a taxonomic identification support network, with infrastructure in both developed and developing countries. The product would be a geographically referenced database of deep-sea taxa.Nations also have a collective responsibility to monitor change in deep-sea ecosystems and the only available method is the detection of change in taxonomic composition. First priority would be given to providing base-line data, identifying potential indicators and providing tools for future assessments. Such assessments are relevant both to processes of global change and to regional issues concerning economic development (e.g. mining, biotechnology prospecting, hydrothermal vents etc.). A further component would be to increase awareness of the unusual life forms in the ocean, and to facilitate involvement of educational institutions and the public in the excitement generated by major discoveries.

Sub-projects

  • Deep-sea sediment-dwelling organisms ($1.5 million)
  • Open-ocean primary producers
    ($0.5 million)
  • Hydrothermal vent organisms
    ($0.5 million)
  • Commercial fish & by-catch possibilities ($0.5 million)

Budget

$3 million

Taxonomy and biogeography of tropical and subtropical leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae, Coleoptera)

Background and justification

This group is part of the megadiverse leaf-eating beetle guild, with great economic significance (agrobiology, food production, forestry) and ecological impact. It is a key component of tropical and subtropical forest and savanna biomes. Many species are virus vectors. They are a group which shows significant differences in diversity and abundance between primary and secondary forest, and have already been used as bioindicators. Some species are also of significance in chemical ecology, through production of secondary metabolic compounds. Many are a perfect model for plant-animal interaction. Their distribution is world-wide, but concentrated in developing countries of the tropics and subtropics. The total number of species is only guessed at, between 150 000 and 400 000.

There are existing networks of active chrysomelid taxonomists, which form a global base upon which to build a more comprehensive effort. The project would develop training and capacity-building through undertaking regional inventories and biogeographic analyses, and developing keys and field identification aids for managers and farmers, and would create a foundation of critical generic revisions through monographs. Training would include both site training, and some training in major institutions. Regional infrastructures, including training and research centres, would be established.

A team of 60 doctoral students, trainees and technicians would be needed with a global supervisory force of 5–8 supervisors.

Sub-projects

  • Literature collection
  • Regional task force to undertake type revisions
  • Collection of distributional data
  • Development of keys
  • Digitisation of data as it is accumulated
  • Development of Web based identification systems

Budget

Yet to be developed

Time frame

This project would take around 10 years to complete.

Pollinating Hymenoptera – their taxonomy, biogeography and ecological specificity

Background and justification

Pollination (or its failure) in wild and domesticated flora is a significant ecological problem. Lack of understanding of the nature of insect pollinators and their distributions is a major impediment in developing sustainable management of many systems. Lack of capacity-building and training in developing countries is the major impediment to developing this management. Many pollinators are also bioindicators and useful conservation tools. The number of species of Hymenoptera (a major group of insect pollinators) is only vaguely known, but may be between 15 000 and 20 000. Elucidating their taxonomy, biogeography and ecological specificity is of critical importance in the understanding of pollination.

There are some informal networks of hymenoptera taxonomists already in place, and these could form the framework of the project. Hymenoptera are also of interest to, and studied by, amateur naturalists, who could provide valuable assistance in this project.

Sub-projects

  • Literature collection
  • Species inventory (including synonyms)
  • Collection of distributional data
  • Development of keys, regional information
  • Capacity-building through the formation of regional networks, and cooperation in research methods and in field collecting and collection management
  • Regular feedback through regional seminars
  • Development of monographs
  • Development of Web-based identification systems

Budget & Time frame

Yet to be developed.

Regional and Global Floras of the World

A number of regional projects to develop Floras are already underway, perhaps more now than at any time in the past. Most of these projects are voluntary, or survive on minimal funding. Their aim is to collate existing information at the species level, develop authoritative and uniform decisions on nomenclature, and provide the keys necessary for identification of the taxa covered. At least some regional floras are in progress on each continent, but there are substantial geographic and content gaps between them. Examples of some existing major regional projects are Flora Neotropica, Flora URSS, Flora Mesoamericana, Flora of China, Flora Malesiana, Flora of North America, Flora of Australia, Flora Zambesiaca, Flora of Tropical East Africa, Flora of Southern Africa, Flora Europaea, etc.

Species Plantarum: Flora of the World (also a voluntary effort) is intended to collate information from existing and future regional (and national) Floras, to provide a uniform account of the vascular plants of the world. The first parts of this series are expected to appear in late 1998. Species Plantarum is a project of the International Organization for Plant Information (IOPI), which is itself a commission of the IUBS.

Sub-projects

The Floras developed at all levels (national, regional, global) will address different needs and all require support. Development and expedition of national Floras should be encouraged through the CBD mechanisms aimed at national implementation. Support for regional and global Floras should be managed through the GTI mechanisms. This support should be channelled to:

  • secretariats involved in publishing and distributing the regional and global Floras, and
  • support of taxonomists and taxonomic editors (particularly from developing countries) who will work on the research, compilation and editing of these works, ideally by secondment to existing major taxonomic institutions. This secondment will make a major contribution to capacity-building in taxonomy while simultaneously delivering the tools needed for biodiversity management.

Priority will be given to large species-rich groups, groups of particular importance to the CBD, and groups with high economic potential.

The outputs from this project will be:

  • Complete descriptive treatments of all vascular plant families, including keys
  • Training of new experts, especially from developing countries, with an aim to double the number of experts in developing countries.
  • Establishment and consolidation of regionally standardised databases
  • Checklists of currently known taxa (short-term products)
  • Identification guides for non-specialists
  • Development of tools for utilising taxonomic information for conservation and sustainable use of plant biodiversity

Budget

Up to $30 million per year.

Time frame

At least 10 years to establish fully functioning projects, with substantial progress in 15–20 years.

Global Programme to resolve the Taxonomy of Rubiaceae

Background and justification

The project is focused on training and strengthening of taxonomic capacity in developing countries, while improving global knowledge of an important megadiverse family. Only a global approach can solve these issues in such an ubiquitous family.

Criteria for selecting Rubiaceae:

  • Major economic importance (Coffee, Quinine, Timbers, ornamental plants)
  • Tropical worldwide distribution
  • Megadiverse (perhaps to 12 000 species)
  • Important structural component in forest and woodland systems world-wide
  • Frequent secondary pioneers – important contribution to regeneration.

An existing network of corresponding taxonomists is in place, but this needs expansion and support if it is to fulfil capacity-building objectives.

Sub-projects

  • Rapid collation of current knowledge, including literature collection, checklist, synonymies, distribution data. This includes a training component, focusing on data-basing techniques.
  • Development of user-friendly identification tools for selected regions, groups etc. Training would focus on taxonomic and IT techniques. Liaison with conservation agencies, ethnobotanists, anthropologists and bioprospecting experts will be a key aspect of this phase.
  • A contribution to infrastructure, and improving local and regional collections through new collecting. Training would focus on fieldwork and collections management.
  • A census/synthesis of the whole family directly contributing to regional and local floras and conservation databases (especially Malesiana, Neotropica, Zambesiaca, Madagascar). Training would focus on conservation technique, flora-writing and editing and taxonomy sensu lato.
  • State-of-the-art monographs for doctoral projects, involving all modern tools. Training is initiated in the universities, with partnerships developed with local botanical institutes, and cooperation in the field between specialists, supervisors, students, parataxonomists and technicians.

Budget

The overall cost is likely to be $6–10 million.

Time frame

With an initial “proving” year, three years of collation and five years of active work the project is at least 9 years in length. Throughout there will be emphasis on networking information within and between regions.

Support for DIVERSITAS committee/expert panel

Background and justification

The DIVERSITAS programme has established, as a pilot project, an expert panel to network globally on priority setting and identifying groups and opportunities for projects.

This expert Panel aims to contribute significantly to implementation of Article 7(a) of the CBD by stimulating focused scientific, coordinating and training activities that support and develop further the GTI. Funding is necessary to expedite the work of this panel.

Project

Identification of priorities, gaps, and opportunities

The expert panel will:

  • identify successful case studies on systematic inventories at different levels (national, regional and global) and analyse the reasons for their success as possible models for new projects (examples: Southern African Botanical Survey, Flora of Australia, Flora of China, Zoological Catalogue of Australia).
  • analyse national studies and national reports of the parties to the CBD, as to their content on systematic biology, aiming to use any biosystematic information in such reports to identify needs, priorities, gaps and opportunities for further research projects.
  • identify and prioritise (existing and new) projects on taxonomic groups, taking into account factors such as geographical distributions, ecological function and economic relevance. This is directly relevant for virtually all other programme elements of DIVERSITAS. It is also a prerequisite to fulfilling the obligations under Articles 6–8 of the CBD.

The panel will consult widely, particularly with relevant societies and members of the IUBS. Contributions will be sought from experts, covering the major taxa, the continental regions (terrestrial and freshwater systems), and the other components of biodiversity (marine, soil, microbial).

Budget & Time frame

Yet to be developed.

DIVERSITAS proposal on taxonomy and inventory of inland water biodiversity

Background and justification

Inland water ecosystems are among the world’s most fragile, scarce and threatened ecosystems. Successful long-term conservation of such ecosystems relies on knowledge of their biological diversity.

It is generally assumed that the biodiversity of inland water bodies on the specific level is lower than that of marine ecosystems, whereas the rate of endemism is much higher.

There is an enormous amount of information to be found, often disseminated through many scientific papers, databases, museums collections, theses, reports and unpublished information but there is no inventory of the existing freshwater biodiversity, on either a world-wide and continental basis. As a consequence, many publications related to freshwater present and use inaccurate figures for biodiversity.

The objective of this project would be to provide a reference work on the existing knowledge, based on available data from various sources (publications, reports, data bases, etc.) and on the expertise of recognised specialists.

For each freshwater taxonomic group the project would aim to establish:

  • the number of species, genera and families known and estimated worldwide;
  • the number of species, genera and families known and estimated for each continent.

For major catchment areas an assessment would be made of what is known of the biota at a range of systematic levels, and of rates of endemism. The project would also identify sources of information (such as literature, institutions, web sites, etc.) and would provide a directory to those sources.

The findings of the project would be published in a CD ROM and on the internet.

The project would be carried out in two parallel stages, and supervised by a Steering Committee.

  • Preparation of lists of species, genera and families of freshwater organisms (including information on their distribution),using all published information and web sites. An additional product would be a directory of relevant web sites. Stage 1 would be completed within a 6–10 month period, by a qualified scientist situated in an institution with access to a large library and Internet communication.
  • Organisation of five panels of 6–10 experts each. These panels would evaluate the information gathered in Stage 1, identify the gaps in knowledge and approach the relevant sources (governmental and international agencies, museums, experts, etc.) in order to complete the database.

Budget

Yet to be developed.

Timeline

Completion within 3 years.

Freshwater Fish Taxonomy Initiative For The Americas

Background and justification

It is crucially important to develop a few new pilot projects, bringing together resources of governments, institutions and scientists that will address the critical areas of biodiversity. Ideally such a new initiative should:

  • involve a taxonomic group that requires cooperation
  • involve taxa with broad geographical distribution
  • involve taxa that are relevant for the objectives and priorities of the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • yield results in the short term

One group that has been proposed as a group that meets the above criteria are the freshwater fish of the Americas. Significant collections, taxonomic expertise and databases already exist, and any initiative should build upon these efforts in a cost effective manner. National and institutional priorities and capacities will be taken into account in developing this new effort. CONABIO, InBIO, and the Humboldt Institute working with other national institutions could be key partners.

Budget & Time frame

Yet to be developed.