[tdwg-content] Another example of non-overlapping concepts

Nico Franz nico.franz at upr.edu
Fri May 13 10:05:52 CEST 2011

Hello Pete (et al.):

    For bird, Town Peterson at KU and colleagues have published these 
papers showing how alternative bird taxonomies affect the ranking of 
conservation priorities.


    Here's the abstract of the 1999 paper:

Analysis of geographic concentrations of endemic taxa is often used to 
determine priorities for conservation
action; nevertheless, assumptions inherent in the taxonomic authority 
list used as the basis for
analysis are not always considered. We analyzed foci of avian endemism 
in Mexico under two alternate species
concepts. Under the biological species concept, 101 bird species are 
endemic to Mexico and are concentrated
in the mountains of the western and southern portions of the country. 
Under the phylogenetic species
concept, however, total endemic species rises to 249, which are 
concentrated in the mountains and lowlands
of western Mexico. Twenty-four narrow endemic biological species are 
concentrated on offshore islands, but
97 narrow endemic phylogenetic species show a concentration in the 
Transvolcanic Belt of the mainland and
on several offshore islands. Our study demonstrates that conservation 
priorities based on concentrations of
endemic taxa depend critically on the particular taxonomic authority 
employed and that biodiversity evaluations
need to be developed in collaboration or consultation with practicing 
systematic specialists.

    There was a debate recently on Taxacom that was started and 
subsequently neatly summarized by Fabian Haas. The topic was "let's 
summarize reasons why 'donors' seem to not fund taxonomy". One point 
from the summary was this:

3) Taxonomy is over-accurate for most applications

Most (not all) decisions in e.g. modelling and conservation are done and 
can be done without complete knowledge of taxa. As it is, decisions for 
conservation areas are often based on flagship species (e.g. elephants), 
on taxa which have an excellent research background, e.g. birds (IBAs), 
on availability of land (e.g. land with a high Tsetse burden), 
importance as corridor and other factors, but never on a complete view 
on an all biodiversity in a specific area. Even if an inventory existed, 
it would be an illusion that we could collect data on ecological 
requirements and population dynamics for most of the species necessary 
for informed decisions. A complete inventory does not seem to provide an 
advantage for conservation.

    I personally think there's some truth to that. I also think that, 
while it's understandable that an accurate representation of the 
(sometimes) fleetingness of taxonomic consensus it not a priority for 
applied ecological projects, if taxonomists themselves don't find better 
ways to document and link these alternatives perspectives, then it's not 
the best science we can do. That would be fine too if adopted outright 
as a pragmatic stance.



On 5/13/2011 1:08 AM, Peter DeVries wrote:
> I thought that I would also mention that in addition to The Plants 
> List, the eBird project also uses on overlapping concepts in its bird 
> list (it does have concepts for common hybrids)
> What is clear to me is that you cannot create graphs like these if 
> every observation can have X number of species (especially those that 
> overlapping ) without any indication which is is the most appropriate one.
> eBird Occurrence Maps Northern Cardinal
> http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/occurrence-maps/northern-cardinal
> NCBI is also similar.
> Perhaps a member of the consensus committee can comment?
> -- Pete
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Pete DeVries
> Department of Entomology
> University of Wisconsin - Madison
> 445 Russell Laboratories
> 1630 Linden Drive
> Madison, WI 53706
> Email: pdevries at wisc.edu <mailto:pdevries at wisc.edu>
> TaxonConcept <http://www.taxonconcept.org/> & GeoSpecies 
> <http://about.geospecies.org/> Knowledge Bases
> A Semantic Web, Linked Open Data <http://linkeddata.org/>  Project
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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