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One Million Species in the Catalogue of Life – a triumph for Species 2000 and ITIS, or for TDWG standards?. Frank Bisby Executive Director: Species 2000 Species 2000 Secretariat University of Reading, UK Systema Naturae by Carl Linnaeus. 13 editions from 1735 to 1770

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One Million Species in the Catalogue of Life – a triumph forSpecies 2000 and ITIS, or forTDWG standards?

Frank Bisby

Executive Director: Species 2000Species 2000 Secretariat

University of Reading, UK

Systema Naturae by Carl Linnaeus
  • 13 editions from 1735 to 1770
  • 4,400 species of animals & 7,700 species of plants have been catalogued
Catalogue of Life 2007 Annual Checklist
  • 1,008,965 accepted species
  • 79,393 accepted infraspecific taxa
  • 538,364 synonyms
  • 414,075 common names
  • 7th edition

2007 Annual Checklist

47 taxonomic databases

over 3,000 taxonomists around the


a partnership between

Species 2000 & ITIS

CoL Management




CoL Management




Partners and contributors to the Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life

1. Taxonomic institutions world-widee.g. MNHN Paris; NIES, Tsukuba, Japan; Zoological Inst., St. Petersburg Russia; RBG Sydney, Australia; Missouri Botanical Garden, USA; ITIS/Smithsonian Inst. USA; Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK; Naturalis Museum, The Netherlands; The Natural History Museum, UK; CONABIO/ ITIS Mexico;2. Regional taxonomic databasese.g. Fauna Europaea, ERMS, Euro+Med PlantBase, ITIS N.America, Species 2000 China Node, Species 2000 New Zealand, Australia Node (APNI, ABIF, AFD), etc.

Partners and contributors to the Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life

3. Specialist international networkse.g. FishBase; AlgaeBase; TicksBase; ILDIS LegumeWeb; AnnonBase;CIPA Sandflies, Paris; UNESCO Register of Marine Organisms.

4. The ‘Life Work’ of individual specialistse.g. TITAN-Cerambycidae (Tavakilian, Paris), Conifer Database (Farjon, London), Mite families (Moraes, Piricicaba), Ichneumonoidea (Yu, Canada)

Major users of the Catalogue of Life

Individual users on the Web (largest load from Google)Individual users of the 2,500 CDs (intended for developing countries)School Children (Jessica of Cape Cod)

GBIF data portal (provides the principal index)

Encyclopedia of L ife (invited to provide ‘Default Taxonomy’)

CBD programmes Clearing House Mechanism Global Taxonomy Initiative GSPC Target 1: Working List of Plants Biosafety Protocol Clearing House Global Invasive Species ProgrammeCBOL Barcode of Life Programme

uBio US Library Initiative Taxonomic Hierarchy & Checklist

CRIA Brazil, Norwegian Nation System, BDWorld, SEEK….

Catalogue of Life on-line service and CD-ROM

Dynamic Checklist & Web-service

Array of source databases for different higher taxa

Annual Checklist


DB on the Web

So how has TDWG served Species 2000and its communityof taxonomic databasesuppliers?

……and indeed, how has this community responded to the provision by TDWG?

The will of TDWG to create standards has fluctuated over these 11 years

1985 – 1995 TDWG worked primarily on data content standards1995 – 2002 TDWG was primarily a forum for discussing innovations in biodiversity informatics2002 - 2007 TDWG came back to standards, this time at the level of schemas, protocols and enabling technologies

2. The early cohort of TDWGcontent standards were potentiallyextremely important.

1. Geographical areas standard (Brummitt & Hollis)

2. (Plant) Status standard (POSS) (IUCN)

3. (Herbarium) specimen record standard (HISPID)(Conn)

3. (Plant) Names in (botanical) databases (Bisby)

3. The shift to schemas and protocols at the informatics level has done much to widen the generality of solutions.

1. TCS: Taxonomic Concept Schema

2. TDWG recommendations on LSIDs


(We should thank Stan Blum and GBIF among others for stimulating this return to standards)

4. We need to be realistic about the time-lags and life-cycles

In 2005 we were implementing fully SPICE protocols that originated from a project started in 2000, and proposed in 1999.

In 2007 we are STARTING to implement the TCS that wasproposed at the Portuguese TDWG meeting.

It takes several years to agree a standard, it takes several years for a community to implement it, and maybe many years for legacy projects (the most valuable!) to complete the change.

5. The weak take-up of genericsoftwares in the taxonomic databasecommunity

But if you ask – did the taxon databases take up the early:TDWG content standards – the answer is mostly NO!

- individual ‘purposes’ for the databases

- individual views on how it should be done

- funding easier for innovations than doing the job.

And similarly – generic softwares have done poorlyin our community

So what do we need?

- we do need the informatics level standards

- we do need thecontent standards as well

- but we also need some sustained work

- to sustain and intensify the TDWG standards role (possibly involving partnerships with ISO, IUCN etc.)

- to publicise and push the standards in a wider context

- to gain and give confidence that there is an effective standard way for many of these tasks to be done. - to be very clear about the life-cycle and adoption process.

Incipient standards within the Species 2000 community

1. Standard Species Checklist data set (for certain defined purposes)

2. A tailored configuration of TAPIR to provide the SPICE protocols needed to federate species checklists sectors.

3. A ‘best practice’ manual for managing species checklist databases.

Some examples

1. ‘Replicated names’ for species with infraspecies

2. Never delete a name

3. Binomial and uninomial synonymy

4. Status or concept references for synonyms


Our ability to handle global biodiversity

- depends wholly on synthesis, using distributed systems and interoperability

- and thus on standards…

example of modelling
October 2001Example of Modelling

Model of Leucaena leucocephala - for exploring:- in which countries may further introductions be made? - has the species become invasive by adapting to new niches?- how will the distribution change under global warming scenarios?

I need to remind you that as well as being publicly funded…….

……………………. this is the work of a very large network of people…..

Services: www.catalogueoflife .orgSpecies 2000

ITIS organisation