UK PlantSci 2013 & the Journal of Experimental Botany

Mark Watson
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Running time: 00:27:16 min

Completing the inventory: floristics and conservation on a global scale


The naming of organisms is fundamental to their study, but the task is far from complete. Once you can name the plants around you, you become more aware of them, you can find out about them, take ownership, and are empowered to use and conserve them. The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) embodies this in Objective 1 of its 2002 Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) – ‘Plant diversity is well understood, documented and recognised’. The GSPC set ambitious goals to meet this objective, the first was to produce a list of all known plant species by 2010 – the basic building block in starting to understand the world’s plant biodiversity. In response, The Plant List (TPL) was launched in 2010, bringing together electronic data from nomenclators and large taxonomic datasets. TPL provides a working list of all known plant species, and currently includes 1,040,426 species names – of which 299k are accepted, 478k are synonyms and 264k are unresolved. However, a list only of names is of limited use, as people need the means to apply them (descriptions) and tools to help identify unknown plants (keys). Hence Target 1 of the new GSPC 2020 is ‘An online flora of all known plants’. Floras, comprehensive accounts of all plants in a geographic area, provide this information, along with baseline data for environmental and climate change studies, biodiversity inventories, conservation prioritisation, and the sustainable use of national resources. Floras are traditionally printed books, but now more commonly they are available in electronic formats. Leading botanical institutes across the globe have recently joined forces to form the World Flora Online (WFO) consortium. The consortium aims to meet the new GSPC target by bringing together dispersed floristic data into a single online resource. The WFO is very ambitious, and its significance for global conservation was enthusiastically and unanimously endorsed by the Parties to the Convention during their COP XI meeting in Hyderabad, October 2012.


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