Plant names: Obstacles and Solutions to access information about plants
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Plant names: Obstacles and Solutions to access information about plants






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Plant names: Obstacles and Solutions to access information about plants Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Plant names: obstacles and solutions Bob Allkin, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK to accessing information about plants
  • 2. Talk structure
    • What is a scientific plant name?
    • Names as obstacles to accessing data
    • Examples of impact
    • Resources / standards available
    • New integrating initiatives
    • Moving forward – what are your needs?
  • 3.
    • Genus name (in Latin)
    • Species name (in Latin)
    • Author e.g. “Hocus pocus Bob”
    • Publication must follow: International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN)
        • include a diagnostic description of plant (in latin)
        • cites “type” specimen(s) - fixes identity of name for eternity
        • respect priority of existing names
      • Beware: the Code evolves!
        • established 1753; revised every 6 yrs: Tokyo 1996; St Louis 2000; Vienna 2006
    What is a scientific name?
  • 4. Q1: How many plants are there?
    • New plants being discovered ( 4 to 6K scientific names published / yr)
    • No authoritative central reference
    c. 0.35 million flowering plants (one botanists educated guess) Q2: How many names are there?
    • > 1.5 million scientific plant names published
    • > 4 million “names” incl. common misspellings
    i.e. lots more names than plants!
  • 5. Structural Obstacles
    • Most plants have many names ( synonyms )
    • The same binomial may be published by different authors ( “Hocus pocus Bob” & “Hocus pocus John” ) who refer to different plants ( homonyms )
    • Names used in literature often refer to wrong plant ( misapplied names )
    • i.e. One plant may have many names
    • & One name may refer to many plants
  • 6. Avoidable Obstacles:
    • Plant name authors are abbreviated in different ways – there IS a standard
    • “ Noise” increases as names are copied
      • New errors introduced
      • Existing errors replicated
    • Information published about a plant cannot be verified unless specimen(s) are cited
  • 7. Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lips. has a root widely used in medicine – imported to EU So what does it look like?.... Google it!
  • 8. 51 PubMed Records 215 GenBank Records Searching with Accepted name
  • 9. Searching with a synonym 03 PubMed Records 14 GenBank Records
  • 10. Conclusions
    • Do not expect to find all information that is published using just one name
      • across the internet or
      • within a single information source
    • You will have to work hard to find all synonyms of a given plant
  • 11. Examples of impact
    • EU Health authority publish legislation (re herbal & poisonous plants) Several either meaningless (non existent names) or ambiguous (homonyms)
    • US & Japanese health authority lists: 20% plants names do not exist. 5%: plants recorded more than once – under different names.
    • World Bank funds multimillion $ forestry programme in NE Brazil local tree (“ Ziziphus joazeiro Mart. ”) has exciting potential 3 different species grown in the plots!
    • World Conservation Monitoring Centre (IUCN) maintain database 70% of maintenance costs relate to entering, checking and reviewing plant names and distributions.
  • 12. Q1: Does name “Hocus pocus” exist? Q2: How should it be written? Q3: Where can I find the original publication? Q4: Do any homonyms exist? Q5: Who is/are the authors? International Plant Name Index http:// Available resources / standards: 1) Nomenclators > Kew + Harvard + Australian Botanical Inst > 1.5 million published plant names (>96%) > 37,000 authors > 15,000 publications Target audience – systematists, db compilers
  • 13.  
  • 14. Q1: What is the “accepted name” of this plant ? Q2: Are names ‘x’ and ‘y’ synonymous? Q3: How many plants are in this genus? Q4: How many plants are in this country? Q5: List all synonyms for this plant?
    • coherent authoritative global list of plants (e.g. in a family)
    • consensus
    • index to ALL relevant names
    • resolves synonymy
    • provides further information e.g. geographical distribution, uses, etc
    Available resources / standards 2) Checklists Kew’s World Checklist of Selected Plant Families – covers 150 plant families 45-50% complete Example:
  • 15.  
  • 16. Comparison of names in NCBI and Kew systems (106 families)
  • 17. Integrated Resources
    • 1) Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (CBD)
    • TARGET 1: A list of all plants by 2010 – facilitated by Kew. 60% complete Kew and Missouri work toward draft checklist + other data ( )
    • Catalogue of Life (Sp2000 + ITIS) ( ) Serves existing checklists for all organisms (plants, animals, insects etc) Much of Kew’s checklist data served. Offers alternative / conflicting views
    • Global Biodiversity Information Framework ( ) Serves specimen records from collections worldwide Name catalogue served from “Catalogue of Life”
    • Encyclopedia of Life ( ) Species pages – coordinating existing knowledge (video/ text/ images etc) No additional name data. Use “Catalogue of Life” as backbone
  • 18. Moving forward: improving Kew’s plant name services
    • Tailored consultancies – for target groups
      • e.g. Medicinal Plants - WHO, EMEA, ICH
      • reporting on existing lists of plant names
      • validating, cleaning & completing name lists
      • building and maintaining subsets for focus groups
    • Designing & developing web services
      • automated responses to queries from other system / API
      • maintenance of name lists avoiding costs for users
      • subscription services
    • Seeking to develop partnerships with user groups
      • inform design of services / user needs
      • develop resource to meet specific demands
  • 19. Thanks for your attention! Questions? Ideas to pursue? PS Biodiversity Information Standards Taxonomic Databases Working Group TDWG Ontologies / Vocabularies / Schemas / LSIDs