[Taxacom] [TAXACOM] COP-9

Chris Lyal C.lyal at nhm.ac.uk
Tue Jun 3 03:05:21 CDT 2008

I agree with Donat that there are depressing aspects about CBD COP.
However, I can't be too upset that representatives of 190 countries have
called for taxonomic work to be carried out, and have identified targets
for taxonomists to meet. 

The draft decision on the Global Taxonomy Initiative from COP 9 lists
some 50 targets for taxonomy and associated disciplines, building on
earlier Decisions from the same source.  The targets are all necessary
steps towards getting taxonomic output where it is needed for the
objectives of the Convention: conservation and sustainable use of
biodiversity, and equitable access to the benefits of its genetic
resources.  Some needs are very explicit - keys to bee genera of the
world, for example, or guides to marine algae.  Others are more
structural, such as the requirements for centres for information
exchange on taxonomic guides and other identification tools.  Completion
of a checklist of known species is certainly there (and I would dispute
Donat's assertion that we have no clue as to how we get that job done).
Many can be met with application of bioinformatics techniques to data
already being made available through GBIF, Catalogue of Life etc.

Are there problems with the Convention process?  Certainly, and there
were many disaffected people at the COP.  Are there issues about getting
finance?  Again, certainly, and it would be naive to expect otherwise.
Has GTI led to increased funding to taxonomy?  Difficult to tell,
although there are some bilateral agencies that have certainly put money
into taxonomy because of the Convention (e.g. Belgium, UK and Japan) and
the GEF claims to have done so.  Not enough to solve all the problems of
course, but at least some.

We do have a problem of communication.  The folk in conservation need
taxonomy but may not always realize it.  Their questions will not
necessarily be framed in a taxonomic manner, any more than the questions
a taxonomist asks are phrased as conservation questions.   If we as
taxonomists are sitting around waiting for conservationists to come and
beg us for a monograph on the Xidae, then we are going to have to wait
for a long time.  If, on the other hand, we truly believe that taxonomy
is required to make conservation work, then we have to find out what
conservationists need and make sure it is delivered.  One of the
deliverables called for under previous COP Decisions has been taxonomic
needs assessments - this does not mean 'what to taxonomists need?' but
rather 'what do the conservation and other sectors need from taxonomy in
order to deliver?'  There have been a few of these - for example, see
the UK TNA for conservation at
http://www.cbd.int/doc/programmes/cro-cut/gti/gti-needs-uk.pdf and the
more extensive one on Invasive Alien Species at

Right now the interface between taxonomists, conservationists and
policy-makers is weak, and that is a problem.  However, the CBD COP has
agreed some pretty powerful statements on taxonomy through the GTI (see
the Guide to the GTI at
http://www.cbd.int/doc/publications/cbd-ts-30.pdf), and using these
policy agreements to try and get things done on the ground is at least
worth a try.


Christopher H. C. Lyal
Department of Entomology
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW 7 5BD
tel: +44 (0)207 942 5113

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