The Catalogue of Life, available on CD and on the Internet (www.catalogueoflife.org), is the result of a worldwide collaboration involving so far about 50 contributing databases and the work of 3,000 biologists. The project plans to cover all estimated 1.75 million known species by 2011.
The project is led by the University of Reading’s Professor Frank Bisby of the Species 2000 organisation, based at the University’s Centre for Plant Diversity and Systematics, and by Dr Thomas Orrell, of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) based at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC.
Professor Bisby said: “This electronic checklist is the modern successor to the work started by Linnaeus whose 300th birthday is celebrated this year. It now delivers one million of the world’s described species, from whales to bacteria, mosses to moths, seaweeds to viruses.”
Dr Orrell said: “The catalogue will cover all known living organisms, such as plants, animals and fungi, and micro-organisms such as bacteria, chromista, protozoa, archaea and viruses.”
A joint biological and informatics team integrates information from individual databases in the taxonomic classification. Information on exactly which species should be recognised is validated by experts before being integrated, a vital difference compared to some other catalogues available on the Internet.
The project is on course to deliver the fundamental organism catalogue needed both by the present generation of international biodiversity programmes and the next generation now in planning, such as the Global Species Information System proposed by the G8 Environment Ministers in Potsdam two weeks ago.
It is a keystone component in building the world’s biodiversity knowledge systems of the future. It also facilitates analytical systems working on species, such as modelling and predicting climate change outcomes on a global scale.
Manuela Soares, Director for Research (Environment) at the European Commission will mark the occasion in Reading on 29 March by presenting copies of the One Million Species Catalogue to leaders of major global biodiversity and conservation programmes at the start of a one-day Symposium.
Lucy Ferguson | alfa
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