New paper in Organisms Diversity & Evolution


Towards a global list of accepted species VI: The Catalogue of Life checklist

Hobern D, Barik SK, Christidis L, Garnett ST, Kirk P, Orrell TM, Pape T, Pyle RL, Thiele KR, Zachos FE & Bánki O. 2021
Org Divers Evol 21, 677–690 (2021). Link. Published online 11 October 2021


Despite the important role that species names play in multiple fields, there is no globally complete list of known and described species. This lack is a result simultaneously of the complexity of planetary biodiversity, the long history of naming species in publications from all over the world, the small number of taxonomists working on many important groups, the rapid and dynamic change in knowledge for a few well-studied groups, and the limited incentives for researchers to curate such lists. Recent papers have proposed that a more formal governance mechanism is needed to assist with the translation of taxonomic knowledge to user communities. The recommendation is for the taxonomic community to assist user groups by maintaining reviewed lists that reflect as far as possible consensus among practising taxonomists and incorporating new insights and understanding as these become widely accepted within the relevant taxonomic community. The Catalogue of Life (COL) is the most significant international partnership working to deliver a list of all species by engaging a broad network of taxonomists and databases to contribute expert-curated lists for different taxonomic groups. COL, which included 1,908,823 species as of May 2021, has great experience with developing such a list across all taxonomic groups and has been modernising its processes and tools since 2017 to reflect best practice in management of large digital information assets. This paper explores the alignment between the current state and directions of COL and the initiative to improve the governance of species lists.