Systematics Agenda 2000 - heard of it?

Nicola Donlon nd at NHM.AC.UK
Thu Nov 30 09:47:32 CST 1995

Although originally a North American initiative, SA2000 has
been widely discussed in Europe. In May this year, a
conference was organised by the European Science Foundation
Network in Systematic Biology, the Rijksherbarium in Leiden,
the Linnean Society of London and the UK Systematics
Association to examine whether, and in what ways, Europe
should contribute to the goals of SA2000. This support of
this conference was instrumental in SA2000 being adopted as
a global initiative under the auspices of IUBS.

The summary report of this workshop is reproduced below. If
anyone would like more information about the ESF Systematic
Biology Network, please visit our WWW site at:

Systematics Agenda 2000: the Challenge for Europe

Leiden, 14-17 May 1995

The conference was convened by the Rijksherbarium in Leiden,
the Linnean Society of London, the European Science
Foundation Systematic Biology Network and the Systematics
Association, in order to identify what Europe's special
resources in systematic biology could contribute to
documenting and understanding the Earth's biological

The key elements of this goal are expressed by the global
initiative Systematics Agenda 2000.  The three inter-related
missions of Systematics Agenda 2000 are:

Mission 1.  To discover, describe and inventory global
species diversity
Mission 2.  To analyse and synthesise the information
derived from this global discovery effort into a predictive
classification system that reflects the history of life.
Mission 3.  To organise the information derived from this
global programme in an efficiently retrievable form that
best meets the need of science and society.

Systematics Agenda 2000 is recognised by the delegates as
expressing the over-arching goals that European
collaborative initiatives should work towards. International
activities, such as EuroLOOP of the BioNET International
initiative, the DIVERSITAS programme of the International
Union of Biological Sciences and the ESF Systematic Biology
Network, will work in a complementary manner to address the
different elements of this enormous task.

The conference was aware that it represented only part of
the wider community of systematic biologists in Europe and
must take into account the perspectives of others who could
not easily take part, including those from Eastern European

The points agreed by the conference represent a vital first
step in promoting European coordination.  They will be
developed further and implemented with wider participation
of systematists throughout Europe.


The systematists of the many nations in Europe feel that
there is much to be achieved by coordinating work on a
European basis.  We recognise that the scale of the task of
discovering and describing the Earth's biological diversity
demands new approaches to international collaboration which
capitalise on Europe's special strengths in the study of the
natural world.
The research collections of institutions in Europe represent
half of the world's total and are a vital resource for
documenting and interpreting biological diversity.  Some
important European collections are at risk from lack of
The internationally significant research collections of
European institutions contain much of the information needed
to meet the requirements of the 1992 Convention on
Biological Diversity to monitor and conserve biodiversity.
We recognise the urgent need to develop this information
resource and share it with countries around the world,
especially those rich in biological diversity.
The task of describing the Earth's biological diversity
requires that we unite our skills and expertise in
partnership with nations lacking those resources and that we
work with them to develop their own systematic capacity.
Even in Europe, there are many groups for which knowledge of
their extent and relationships is incomplete.


Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of use of the
European systematic resource by coordinating activities in
collections development, research and training.
Develop European coordination through the establishment of a
European Systematics Association to unite the many existing
national societies of both professional and amateur
Develop European coordination in taxonomic training and
development to build and maintain the systematic capacity of
institutions in Europe.
Strengthen and develop new networks of specialists in
particular groups or regions.  Several new networks have
been proposed, including a network of the major European
research groups writing Floras of Africa.
Adopt standardised description formats.
Promote the development of databases of information on
systematic expertise and collections resources in Europe.
Develop a framework for European collaboration at the level
of institutions.  The framework will support the creation of
new, coordinated research and training programmes and
facilitate dialogue with funding and development agencies.
Promote the establishment of a European Union programme on
biodiversity that addresses both diversity in Europe and
Europe's contribution to activities in the rest of the
Develop a set of common criteria that can be used to
establish priorities for both groups and habitats through a
programme of workshops.
Improve access to information in collections and libraries
and greatly accelerate the flow of information, particularly
to less developed countries.
Undertake the research needed to produce check lists of
species and identification keys for European biodiversity.
The priority will be to tackle first the many major groups
for which information is currently lacking.

The Future

We urge all networks, societies, institutions and individual
systematists to carry forward these action points.

A report of the discussions and conclusions of the
conference will be published by the Linnean Society.

Assessments of the current knowledge of biodiversity and of
European expertise were prepared for the conference and will
be published in an international journal.

Nicola Donlon
Science Policy Coordinator
The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK
Tel 0171 938 9399  Fax 0171 938 9506
NHM WWW server:

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