[Taxacom] eol in nature [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Jim Croft jrc at anbg.gov.au
Fri Sep 7 10:03:34 CDT 2007


> In many case a lot of problems would be solved if 
> one could agree which names have any meaning in a 
> modern context.

Today's modern context is tomorrow's historical legacy.

You can register names if you want, but it does not really add anything in
terms of information.  Coming up with lists of meaninglful names is not
all that difficult and people are doing all over the place.  Where the
problem lies is in defining the various meanings of each of the meaningful
names - this is the business of taxonomy and what our clients want.  They
are not all that fussed in the nomenclaturall niceties, but they do want
to know when they hear a name, what it applies to.  Did a splitter use
it?  A lumper?  Early career or late carer?  Sane period or otherise?

Even if we can agree to disagree on a consensus list (like the Australian
Plant Census, for example), there is no control on collections (or
individual botanists) on how they might chose to apply those names as they
determine specimens.  This problem renders projects such a GBIF and the
Australia's Virtual Herbarium indicative rather than absolute. But, given
the positive intent that botanist are trying to communicate consistently,
the indication is pretty good.

A list of names is a start, but it is not the same as a list of named
concepts/taxa.  The latter is a real headache.

The Austalian Plant Name Index tries to document published conepts to each
name.  It is confusing to read until you get the hang of it and it is a
long way from finished.  But - once a concept has been entered, no-one
needs to compile that information again.  All we need now is another dozen
staff to finish the job...  and then we have to work out how we are going
to use the information... :( 

Taxonomy is not a trivial activity, and we spend a lot of time trying to
convince our masters and clients that it is quite unreasonable to expect a
simple answer to a complex issue.  And if you insit we give you one, it
is not going to work.

jim



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