[Taxacom] Taxonomy Anarchy

JF Mate aphodiinaemate at gmail.com
Sat Jun 3 15:26:43 CDT 2017

Thanks KD,

Although it is always better to seek a compromise or at least
collaboration, what the authors are requesting is for taxonomy to be
shaped for conservation: "In our view, the IUBS should create a
process that does exactly what that effort avoids — restrict the
freedom of taxonomic action." This stops taxonomy being a science and
being subordinate to conservation in a joint project to build a legal
framework: "If species delineations are at least partly arbitrary,
deliberations must draw on expertise beyond taxonomy, morphology,
systematics and genetics. Lawyers should be included to ensure that
any definition can withstand legal challenge.  But vagueness is not
compatible with conservation." Far from reinforcing taxonomy, this
approach makes taxonomy a "consultant for hire" or opens it to that
accusation. Taxonomic work can lead to regrettable situations but at
least it is currently free from the accusation of working for one side
(regardless of the moral high ground that this side may have).

Also conservation is not the only stakeholder of taxonomic work.
Medicine, agriculture and other fields in biology require up to date
and accurate (or as accurate as possible) species hypotheses. There is
the potential that conservation-orientated taxonomy hurts other fields
by restricting advances in knowledge or delaying them due to
compliance or legal issues.

Finally, if species sense is unimportant to society (hence education
or at least a common understanding of each other´s challenges
impractical), then the problem for conservation is not fluid taxonomy,
but operating under single flagship species instead of whole
communities, which would be more stable overall.

In the end the core issue is taxonomy needs its freedom of inquiry.
Maybe better communication between fields, such as when the work
involves endangered taxa, would help. But asking to restrict the work
is wrong, regardless of the ultimate aim. My two cents.


On 3 June 2017 at 20:11, KD Dijkstra <kd.dijkstra at naturalis.nl> wrote:
> Hi all,
> Many opinions have been voiced now and everyone has offered to undersign a
> response, but it still seems rather nebulous what supposed consensus we're
> signing up for.
> In my view any response should not so much voice the more theoretical
> issues that we love to dwell on in this forum (e.g. "those using a name
> should just indicate the associated authority and the problem is solved"),
> but on aiding the practical choices those attempting to get species
> red-listed and protected must make. In other words, be the voice of
> "taxonomists concerned with conservation". That voice can come from a
> taxonomist's active involvement in CITES or the IUCN Red List (e.g. my and
> Scott's reactions), those already experienced with managing taxonomic data
> (e.g. Rich, Donat, ICZN), and people at organizations like IUCN or in
> environmental consultancy that understand the complexity of the
> taxonomy-conservation interface.
> For me the central question is how we can give conservation what it needs
> (regardless of focus, species knowledge will always remain crucial in
> decisions and awareness) while benefiting us as taxonomists. As the authors
> of the comment imply, and as I seconded in my earlier response, taxonomy
> and conservation (at least the data side of it; IUCN, CITES etc.) are
> joined at the hip but seem to operate too independently. The recent comment
> may go too far in its proposals for "taxonomic governance" but there's
> clearly room for coordination, i.e. taxonomy and conservation progressing
> as a team effort on biodiversity data, while together seeking financial
> commitment for that service in return.
> Indeed, taxonomists shouldn't forget that conservation (rather than, most
> notably, biological science) is probably their greatest ally today, not so
> much as it attempts to preserve the life that fascinates us, but because
> contributing to the record of what once lived, still lives, and may be
> lost, might be our best chance to keep our embattled field afloat.
> Finally, John's point on educating conservationists about taxonomy is of
> course an important one but I wonder how much ground can actually be gained
> on this practically, especially as this is part of the much greater issue
> of a lack of species sense in society (see my comment
> <http://www.nature.com/polopoly_fs/1.19870!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/533172a.pdf>
> on
> that, published in the same spot just a year earlier), although it is
> particularly ironic that those who aim to protect species know so little
> about what they are...
> Cheers, KD
> _________________________________________
> *Klaas-Douwe 'KD' B. Dijkstra*
> Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
> Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
> African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online <http://addo.adu.org.za/>
> personal page <http://science.naturalis.nl/dijkstra>
> _________________________________________
> Sir David's Dragonfly (on BBC television)
> <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMDnPUXTcdc&feature=youtu.be>
> Restore our sense of species (in Nature)
> <http://www.nature.com/polopoly_fs/1.19870!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/533172a.pdf>
> Sixty new dragonfly species from Africa
> <http://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2016/01/28/sixty-new-species-of-dragonflies-discovered-in-africa/#1b4241c54963>
> Handbook of African Dragonflies
> <http://freshwaterblog.net/2015/06/01/discovering-the-dragonflies-and-damselflies-of-eastern-africa/>
> Freshwater Biodiversity and Aquatic Insect Diversification
> <http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/eprint/9UfgQAmBYDwDivSeFBxJ/full/10.1146/annurev-ento-011613-161958>
> Consensus classification of dragonflies
> <http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2013/f/zt03703p045.pdf>
> Most complete damselfly phylogeny to date
> <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/syen.12035/pdf>
> 2017-06-02 18:54 GMT+02:00 Scott Thomson <scott.thomson321 at gmail.com>:
>> 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
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> > --
>> > ____________________________________________________________
>> > _______________________
>> >
>> > Dr. Dagmar Triebel
>> >
>> > Head of the IT Center
>> > Staatliche Naturwissenschaftliche Sammlungen Bayerns
>> >
>> > Senior Curator of Fungi and Algae and Deputy Director
>> >
>> > Botanische Staatssammlung München
>> > Menzinger Straße 67
>> > 80638 München, Germany
>> >
>> > Tel   ++49-089-17861-252
>> > Fax   ++49-089-17861-193
>> > Email triebel at bsm.mwn.de
>> >
>> > http://www.snsb.info
>> > http://www.snsb.info/staff_triebel.html
>> >
>> > Mailing lists:
>> > https://lists.lrz.de/mailman/listinfo/dwb-info  (DWB software updates)
>> > https://lists.lrz.de/mailman/listinfo/snsb-dwb-maintenance  (SNSB
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>> > ____________________________________________________________
>> > _______________________
>> >
>> >
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>> >
>> > Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years, 1987-2017.
>> >
>> --
>> Scott Thomson
>> Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo
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>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years, 1987-2017.
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