[Taxacom] Taxonomic anarchy -- solution?

Laurent Raty l.raty at skynet.be
Tue Jun 6 13:00:53 CDT 2017


We used to have something similar for birds, the taxonomic literature 
being scanned regularly by a taxonomic working group of BirdLife 
International, that would then update a checklist with the published 
recommendations they decided to accept. BirdLife is the taxonomic 
authority of the IUCN for birds.
But, then, they changed the rules of the game. A recent review of the 
last developments (from the perspective of BLI) is in Burfield et al 
2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0959270917000065 (if you're not on an 
academic network, there's a copy at 
http://bioacoustics.cse.unsw.edu.au/archives/html/canberrabirds//2017-03/pdfvyyiOW6Oh1.pdf 
).
Not everebody is happy with it, however; and it seems the authors of the 
Nature paper are not among the happy ones. (See the "Mix 'n' match" 
figure in the paper.)

Cheers, Laurent -


On 06/06/2017 02:59 PM, Scott Thomson wrote:
> One role of the IUCN SG's is to synthesis the known taxonomy of their
> specialist group, they do not add to it per se, just summaries it
> constantly is one way of looking at it. Within the IUCN SSG Turtle and
> Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG) we have the Turtle Taxonomy
> Working Group and the Turtle Extinctions Working Group, these two basically
> do this for living and fossil turtles respectively and produce constantly
> updated checklists that are based on the taxonomic literature, these are
> peer reviewed. Checklists have their issues, some of which were discussed
> by Pauly et al. 2009 (
> http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~jacks/Pauly.et.al.09.pdf). However, as long
> as these are peer reviewed and are constructed by people with a knowledge
> and understanding of taxonomy it can be minimized.
> 
> TFTSG Checklist is here: http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/checklist/
> 
> Cheers, Scott
> 
> On Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 5:51 AM, KD Dijkstra <kd.dijkstra at naturalis.nl>
> wrote:
> 
>> Hi all,
>>
>> There appears to be consensus that Garnett and Christidis’s proposal of
>> “taxonomic governance” by IUBS is not supported by the community.
>> Nonetheless, they provoked debate, with us admitting that taxonomy’s
>> characteristic duality (contributing to human language while trying to
>> convey evolutionary context) may result in instability and subjectivity
>> that can hinder our contribution to conservation. Of course other fields
>> (e.g. agriculture or bewildered birdwatchers) may be affected too.
>>
>> If conservation experiences the problem, perhaps there too must be the
>> solution? IUCN has a long history as conservation’s interpreter of science,
>> which can feed into policy. That is why the Red List and its criteria were
>> developed, why Key Biodiversity Areas can now be defined, and why IUCN is
>> developing tools to red-list ecosystems and predict species’ climate change
>> responses. Why was taxonomy, which defines the nature that the
>> international union must conserve, never included explicitly in the package?
>>
>> The IUCN Red List feeds into CITES and a lot of legislation worldwide. A
>> (partial) solution to Garnett and Christidis’s problem may be to strengthen
>> the role of the IUCN Specialist Groups. The SGs differ strongly in focus
>> (e.g. the Rhino SG will be mostly concerned with politics and rhino
>> numbers, not rhino systematics), but generally reflect the state of
>> knowledge for their taxon, containing both taxonomists and
>> conservationists.
>>
>> The Dragonfly SG that I’m involved with aims to complete our part of the
>> Red List: a species’ taxonomic status (i.e. circumscription) is an
>> essential step in assessing its population status. For the African species
>> the main specialist’s opinion (i.e. mine) is law, simply because no-one
>> else to ask exists. The Asian expert may have different taxonomic 'tastes',
>> as will that for the Americas, or African butterflies, or Asian mayflies,
>> and so forth, which leads to Garnett and Christidis’s “taxonomic anarchy”.
>>
>> Nonetheless, the SGs are where taxonomy and conservation already interact
>> most actively and where what Garnett and Christidis wish for is happening,
>> be it informally. Should SGs commit to keeping the classification and
>> species list for their taxon updated and consistent, perhaps following some
>> general recommendations on treating matters like allopatry* and
>> phylogenetic distinctness**?
>>
>> We could make more use of the NE (Not Evaluated) status on the Red List,
>> ranking species as extant, valid and potentially under threat even before
>> the ecological, geographic and/or demographic data have been assembled for
>> a full assessment of their status. Of course many taxonomic groups have no
>> SG, but this 'pre-listing' might stimulate their formation and more
>> conservation-thinking in taxonomy. In the future any taxonomic act may be
>> accompanied with a threat assessment, just as a genetic context has
>> becoming frequent but not obligatory.
>>
>> I imagine some resistance to this idea from IUCN, fearing to get even more
>> on its already underfunded plate, even though the increased taxonomic
>> stability is advantageous. As in the biological sciences, there is
>> relatively little sense of responsibility towards taxonomy in conservation,
>> despite the service it provides. The usual argument there too is that any
>> support they get trickles down to taxonomy but, as Garnett and Christidis
>> (and economics!) discuss, that doesn’t seem to work.
>>
>> Expanding IUCN’s responsibility to the full extent of species’ statuses
>> won’t have to happen from scratch: there are plenty initiatives to list and
>> classify species more thoroughly and consistently, which I needn't
>> enumerate now. As a respected and much-used source of biodiversity
>> information, the IUCN Red List might also increase the profile of those
>> initiatives in return.
>>
>> All of this can’t be done for free, so means will be needed to support the
>> assessment of species’ taxonomic AND conservation status more consistently.
>> That commitment must somehow come from those who use species' names and
>> must account for their extinction risk (i.e. trade, developers,
>> consultants), for example by committing to funding the full status
>> assessment of 'pre-listed' species that are potentially impacted by their
>> activities.
>>
>> Cheers, KD
>>
>> * To me the discussed inconsistency in species concepts seems largely a
>> luxury problem for well-researched taxa. At least in animals it seems that
>> the more work has been done, the more a phylogenetic species concept is
>> followed, with most controversy involving the often arbitrary decision
>> whether allopatric sister-taxa should be ranked as species or subspecies.
>>
>> ** Who remembers Harris & Rato’s 2013 smart idea
>> <http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/pdf/S0169-5347(13)00086-4.pdf>
>> to incorporate phylogeny in Red Listing?
>>
>>
>>
>> _________________________________________
>>
>> *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>
>>
>> _________________________________________
>>
>> 2017-06-05 2:23 GMT+02:00 Scott Thomson <scott.thomson321 at gmail.com>:
>>
>>> Although I avoid conservation biology, largely for reasons I outlined
>>> earlier such as circularity risks if I both try to name and conserve
>>> species, my background purely by happenstance has exposed me to
>>> conservation biology. My undergraduate degrees and masters were done at a
>>> University that does not specialise in taxonomy, it specialises in ecology
>>> and conservation / management. I was basically a taxonomy student in an
>>> Ecology lab. This meant the needs of conservation was drilled into me by
>>> my
>>> surroundings. I also these days work in many countries (21 so far) and
>>> have
>>> picked up on the legislation across these areas.
>>>
>>> One thing to consider is how it all ties together. The local policies in a
>>> given area are bolstered by both RedList and CITES listings. So to get
>>> maximum conservation effort for a population it is desirable for it to
>>> have
>>> both of these. The RedList is based at the species level and for a
>>> proposal
>>> to list to succeed it is generally needed for the taxon to be described.
>>> What the IUCN does not do is update very well. However a species is
>>> considered to be currently listed by its last assessment and whatever
>>> nomenclature that has. No problem. CITES updates its nomenclature every 12
>>> months and lists taxa by any taxonomic level, eg the family Testudinidae
>>> are all CITES II unless otherwise stipulated as CITES I. So it does not
>>> have to be a species, however it must be described. Again they are capable
>>> of migrating the nomenclature each year if it changes. But recombinations
>>> can cause species to drop off the list.
>>>
>>> The problem is Country and State leglislations which have a tendency to
>>> use
>>> a scheduling model. A taxon is listed in an Act as being scheduled for
>>> protection. This gives them legislative protection but lawyers being
>>> lawyers all the names have to match, so when nomenclature does not match
>>> the species looses its protection. Technically anyway. It gives grounds
>>> for
>>> technical dismissals of cases.
>>>
>>> We also need to recognise that CITES is an agreement, not a piece of
>>> legislation. The signatories of the agreement (160 odd countries) agreed
>>> to
>>> formulate legislation to prevent the trade in any species CITES lists.
>>> Generally the countries take care of their own and then further recognise
>>> the legislation of other countries for exotics, ie the US has its Lacey
>>> Act
>>> to recognise the laws of other countries. This is where it is all is done
>>> at species level. This is where all this gets complicated and I totally
>>> agree it should never have been done this way but in 1975 it was.
>>>
>>> The problem in this current proposal is they basically want to "freeze"
>>> taxonomic and nomenclatural change, without saying it. Making it very
>>> difficult for the science of taxonomy to proceed. I can see the issues
>>> conservation has, but what they propose is not the solution. What we need
>>> to do is demonstrate that this is an inappropriate solution, explain what
>>> taxonomy and nomenclature are, offer reasonable alternatives.
>>>
>>> Cheers, Scott
>>>
>>> On Sun, Jun 4, 2017 at 8:43 PM, Carlos Sarmiento <cesarmiento at yahoo.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>> Hi,
>>>>
>>>> I wonder if the authors of the paper,  willing to ask for a law-approach
>>>> to "solve the problem once and for all" are aware of the strong
>>> discussions
>>>> between legal traditions. Another topic that I found is that these
>>> debates
>>>> seems to deviate our focus from more obvious factors. Is the problem of
>>>> conservation a question of naming species or is it a question of the
>>>> population grow rate and energy consumption habits of a single one? Are
>>>> unprotected the undescribed species that live om a national park?
>>>>
>>>> I would like to joint a rebuttal proposal
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> El 4/06/2017, a las 11:43, Juan Francisco Araya <jfaraya at u.uchile.cl>
>>>> escribió:
>>>>
>>>>> Dear Colleagues:
>>>>>
>>>>> I would like to be part of the response to this paper.
>>>>>
>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>
>>>>> Juan Francisco
>>>>>
>>>>> El 1 jun. 2017 6:38 PM, "Richard Pyle" <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
>>>> escribió:
>>>>>
>>>>>> I began drafting a rebuttal Correspondence note to Nature before I
>>> was
>>>>>> even finished reading the article.  I'm glad to see I'm not the only
>>> one
>>>>>> who had a similar reaction.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Aloha,
>>>>>> Rich
>>>>>>
>>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>>> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf
>>>>>>> Of Scott Thomson
>>>>>>> Sent: Thursday, June 1, 2017 5:47 AM
>>>>>>> To: JF Mate
>>>>>>> Cc: Taxacom
>>>>>>> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Taxonomy Anarchy
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> Several of us who were co-authors on my paper in BZN on Case 3601
>>> have
>>>>>>> briefly discussed this. We have issues with the concept of
>>> Conservation
>>>>>>> attempting to control taxonomy as this leads to circularity.
>>> Taxonomy
>>>> is
>>>>>> a
>>>>>>> science and must have the freedom to perform its function without
>>> the
>>>>>>> constraints of other sciences or fields. A point the code also
>>>>>> acknowledges.
>>>>>>> Their aim is to constrain taxonomy to a single species concept. This
>>>>>> would
>>>>>>> vastly debilitate the development of potential breakthroughs in the
>>>>>> future of
>>>>>>> taxonomy. Conservationists are end users of taxonomy and
>>> nomenclature,
>>>> a
>>>>>>> point that taxonomists should recognise with some consideration, but
>>>>>>> taxonomy must have the academic freedom to explore and present its
>>>>>>> science without political influence.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> So yes I reject the views of that paper. I also think that they are
>>>>>> confused on
>>>>>>> what taxonomy is. When they say that taxonomists would welcome a
>>>>>>> constraint on how taxonomy is done, I get the impression they are
>>>>>> referring
>>>>>>> to nomenclature there, not taxonomy.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> Cheers, Scott
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> On Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 12:29 PM, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>
>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> When I read the title I assumed it would be about the
>>> cladification of
>>>>>>>> classifications or supraspecific oversplitting. Instead it is
>>> solving
>>>>>>>> a legal issue by adding lawyers to taxonomy and systematics. What
>>>>>>>> could go wrong.
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> On 1 June 2017 at 16:56, Richard Zander <Richard.Zander at mobot.org>
>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Another thing for taxonomists to worry about:
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> https://www.nature.com/news/taxonomy-anarchy-hampers-
>>>>>>>> conservation-1.22064
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> "Taxonomy anarchy" and its supposed solution. Journal Nature.
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> -------
>>>>>>>>> Richard H. Zander
>>>>>>>>> Missouri Botanical Garden - 4344 Shaw Blvd. - St. Louis -
>>> Missouri -
>>>>>>>> 63110 - USA
>>>>>>>>> richard.zander at mobot.org<mailto:richard.zander at mobot.org>
>>>>>>>>> Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
>>> and
>>>>>>>> http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>> Taxacom Mailing List
>>>>>>>>> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>>>>>>>>> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>>>>>>>> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
>>>>>>>> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years,
>>> 1987-
>>>>>>> 2017.
>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>> Taxacom Mailing List
>>>>>>>> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>>>>>>>> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>>>>>>> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
>>>>>>>> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years,
>>> 1987-
>>>>>>> 2017.
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>> Scott Thomson
>>>>>>> Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo Avenida Nazaré, 481,
>>>>>>> Ipiranga 04263-000, São Paulo, SP, Brasil
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> Chelonian Research Institute
>>>>>>> 402 South Central Avenue,
>>>>>>> Oviedo, 32765, Florida, USA
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> http://www.carettochelys.com
>>>>>>> ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1279-2722
>>>>>>> Lattes: *http://lattes.cnpq.br/0323517916624728*
>>>>>>> <https://wwws.cnpq.br/cvlattesweb/PKG_MENU.menu?f_cod=1E409F4BF37
>>>>>>> BFC4AD13FD58CDB7AA5FD#>
>>>>>>> Skype: Faendalimas
>>>>>>> Skype Number: +55 (11) 3280 0144
>>>>>>> Mobile Phone: +55 11 994 30 4008
>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>> Taxacom Mailing List
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>>>>>>> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>>>>>> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
>>>>>>> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years,
>>>> 1987-2017.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> Taxacom Mailing List
>>>>>> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>>>>>> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>>>>> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
>>>>>> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years,
>>>> 1987-2017.
>>>>>>
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> Taxacom Mailing List
>>>>> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>>>>> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>>>> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
>>>> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years,
>>> 1987-2017.
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> Taxacom Mailing List
>>>> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>>>> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>>> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
>>>> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years,
>>> 1987-2017.
>>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> --
>>> Scott Thomson
>>> Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo
>>> Avenida Nazaré, 481, Ipiranga
>>> 04263-000, São Paulo, SP, Brasil
>>>
>>> Chelonian Research Institute
>>> 402 South Central Avenue,
>>> Oviedo, 32765, Florida, USA
>>>
>>> http://www.carettochelys.com
>>> ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1279-2722
>>> Lattes: *http://lattes.cnpq.br/0323517916624728*
>>> <https://wwws.cnpq.br/cvlattesweb/PKG_MENU.menu?f_cod=1E409F
>>> 4BF37BFC4AD13FD58CDB7AA5FD#>
>>> Skype: Faendalimas
>>> Skype Number: +55 (11) 3280 0144
>>> Mobile Phone: +55 11 994 30 4008
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Taxacom Mailing List
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>>>
>>>
>>> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 30 Some Years, 1987-2017.
>>>
>>
>>
> 
> 



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