The general disquiet on taxonomy's health: a result of the biodiversity crisis?
Elise Tancoigne (University of Geneva)
Paper short abstract:
A widespread idea postulates that taxonomy is disappearing. However, a scientometric study performed on the most comprehensive zoological database refutes it. Two uncertainties facing taxonomy may explain this idea: we neither know how to speed up taxonomy, nor what biodiversity remains to be discovered.
Paper long abstract:
Articles sounding the alarm on the extinction of taxonomy are numerous today. They often use disconcerting titles although they hardly rely on accurate data. Accurate data on this subject is derived from two main sources: surveys and bibliometric analyzes. They are mostly performed at a local scale: country, taxa. A bibliographical database indexing 90% of zoological publications, with coverage back to 1864, exists: the Zoological Record. A scientometric work was performed at a global scale on this database to assess this decline. Results do not support the idea of a widespread, general decline of taxonomy in the world. Thus, the disquiet on taxonomy's health must originate elsewhere. First, the field encountered recent changes: much attention is now paid to biodiversity databases and the spreading of new approaches such as DNA barcoding and integrative taxonomy. Second, it is believed that a deep discrepancy exists between what is known of biodiversity and what remains to be done (taxonomic gap). Thus, two uncertainties may currently explain the disquiet on taxonomy's health: uncertainties about what remains to be discovered before biodiversity vanishes and uncertainties about what should be done to speed up biodiversity inventories.
Shadows and lights on global biodiversity: taxonomy's revival (EN)