Taxonomic information

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Importance of taxonomy

Conservation and sustainable use of biological resources are accepted as the way of achieving healthy ecosystems. Biodiversity information, based on taxonomy, is the foundation for conservation. Taxonomy is of fundamental importance for understanding the ways through which biodiversity may be changing in the context of climate change and the ways that biodiversity may provide goods and services to society[1].


Øjvind Moestrup with tiny microscope. Taxonomy is often about looking at tiny details.

MarBEF has spent considerable effort on taxonomy through three main activities: the Taxonomic Clearance System and the PROPE-taxon and MANUELA projects. The Taxonomic Clearance System scheme helped to identify of specimens and to describe new species. PROPE-taxon provides European taxonomists a website with taxonomic knowledge systems (e.g. databases, taxonomic keys, biogeographic data). The MANUELA project shares available taxonomical literature on free-living marine nematodes, in addition to taxonomic keys[1].

European Register for Marine Species

The correct use of names and their relationships is essential for biodiversity management; therefore, the availability of taxonomically-validated, standardised nomenclatures are fundamental for biological infrastructures. The European Register of Marine Species (ERMS), originally funded by the EU MAST research programme, has been updated by MarBEF and is used as the taxonomic reference for checking spelling and harmonising synonymy, thereby improving quality control and standardising species lists. In the last 3 years, MarBEF added 1,371 species to ERMS yielding an impressive total of 31,455 names of European species stored within this new database.

After matching their species data with ERMS, LargeNet found that 17% the names they used were invalid. These invalid names were mostly spelling variations, typing errors or synonyms. Without quality control procedures these “erratic names” would have been regarded as extremely rare taxa and could have led to seriously flawed analyses[1].

World Register for Marine Species

ERMS now serves as a basis for the creation of a World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) which currently contains 140,000 valid species or 60% of the estimated number of described marine species in the world. More than 140 world leading experts on marine species, from 26 countries (50% from EU), are building this world register of marine species. It will be the first expert-validated register of names of all marine species known to science[1].