[Taxacom] Taxonomy Anarchy

Scott Thomson scott.thomson321 at gmail.com
Fri Jun 2 11:54:50 CDT 2017

A couple of points on this.

Although in theory a species should not loose protection status if
nomenclature changes the reality can be different depending on the
structure of the legislation in a given country. Conservation is always a
big issue in turtles, which I work with, and with 63% of the order
vulnerable or worse it tends to be a big issue.  In a number of countries
they do not recognise invalid names for taxa and species are listed by
their valid name as an Act of Government, not available names. Changing
legislation takes Acts of Government and this can take 2 or more years to
accomplish. Up to 10 years in some countries. I agree that it would be good
if this legislation listed taxa by their name at the time as suggested, but
to do this also requires a change to the legislation which is also an Act
of Government. Another issue is when they change their taxonomic level, eg
species become subspecies is a particular issue. Under CITES legislation,
which is the Country level protection that enacts the CITES agreement, a
subspecies inherits its protection from the valid parent species, this
means if a CITES species becomes a subspecies of a non-cites species it
looses CITES protection. When the nomenclature changes some countries
reserve the right to reassess the necessity for protection (Malaysia for
example) and as such yet again nomenclature can cause a species to loose or
at least temporarily loose its status, ie about 10 years. I am against the
proposals in the Nature paper and agree it needs to be addressed but
stating that species should not loose their protection due to changes in
taxonomy may be desirable but is not the reality.

With the benefit of hindsight it would have been better if taxonomists had
been involved in the development of legislation for species protection,
clearly conservationists do not understand taxonomy and consider it a tool
for their purposes which to them should be creating stable names for
organisms, the reality is different of course. Unfortunately taxonomists do
not become involved in species legislation. I do this, but I acknowledge
its probably because I work with a highly endangered group. I am a member
of the IUCN and work directly with those who develop both the RedList and
the CITES lists.

I think what we need to do is address the points of the Nature article and
explain the reality of the science of taxonomy. We should limit our
response to that which is relevant to the concerns of the conservationists
and has been brought up by the authors. Obviously their proposal in
untenable and I doubt they realise why it is. I have often said to people
including on this list that taxonomists do need to remember that we are not
only the only people who use nomenclature but we are a small subset of
those who do. Papers like this Nature paper are why I try to remind people
of this.

I would like to be a part of a refutation of this paper, I think that is
needed, but I think we will serve ourselves better if we do this in a way
to open communication with conservationists.

Cheers, Scott

On Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 1:10 PM, Dagmar Triebel <triebel at bsm.mwn.de> wrote:

> Dear colleages,
> I might also add another aspect, because we currently have a regional
> project to curate such a regional checklist of plant taxa with "current
> taxonomy" in relation to two so-called conservation codes, i. e. that of
> the Bavarian nature conservation agency and that of the German nature
> conservation agency. These codes reflect two status/ administrative
> snapshots.
> Thus, the app involved (in our case an installation of
> DiversityTaxonNames)  has to organise (a) the changes of taxonomy and
> nomenclature (including more than one taxon concept) beside different
> administrative snapshots  for these taxon concepts mainly referenced by
>  published red list books. The consistent management of a number of stable
> intern and extern identifiers in this context is crucial.
> If we could discuss the various facets of this subject - also with hint to
> some aspects of data management and data publication via web services in
> this context, I would also sign such a reponse.
> Cheers
> Dagmar
>  Am 02.06.2017 um 17:39 schrieb Marcos Lhano:
>> Dear colleagues
>> I totally agree with Francisco comments. I was thinking exactly the same
>> before read this email, for example, a valid name don´t delete the
>> synonyms. And for classification, we are constantly looking for the natural
>> one, but all proposed classifications are theories and, in this way, a new
>> classification don´t delete the previous one.
>> I also agree with Dijkstra comments, specially: "/...it is true that most
>> conservationists have no appreciation of taxonomy and (worse still) that
>> most taxonomists have little understanding of conservation/". And, the
>> point of view of these authors fits clearly here.
>> So, I also would be happy to sign any response.
>> Cheers, Lhano
> --
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Scott Thomson
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