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Why is Taxonomy Important?

Global biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate as a result of human activities, and decisions must be taken now to combat this trend. But how do decision-makers decide where to establish protected areas if they don't know what is being protected? How can regulators identify and combat harmful invasive species if they cannot distinguish them from native species? How do developing countries ensure that they reap the benefits of the use of their biological diversity, if they don't know the biological diversity that is being used? Taxonomy provides basic understanding about the components of biodiversity which is necessary for effective decision-making about conservation and sustainable use. For more information on the benefits of taxonomy, see the "Why Taxonomy Matters" series at BioNET International's website.

Booklet created for the inaugural CBD Linnaeus lecture containing summaries of presentations and information on the importance and legacy of Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy

Taxonomy to Combat Invasive Alien Species

Under the Operational objective 5 of the Global Taxonomy Initiative ("Within the work on cross-cutting issues of the Convention include key taxonomic objectives to generate information needed for decision-making in conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and its components") is Planned Activity 15: Invasive alien species.

Taxonomic information is essential for agencies and border authorities to detect, manage and control of Invasive Alien Species (IAS). Effective control and management measures can only be implemented when exotic species are correctly and promptly identified. Misidentifications can cost money when rapid decisions need to be taken.

Networking and sharing of experiences, information and expertise can aid in lowering the costs associated with IAS and reduce the need for eradication programmes with early detection and prevention. When eradication is needed, taxonomists can offer expertise that is central to developing the most effective yet economic and environmentally benign eradication measures.

Increased capacity-building (especially for developing countries) is necessary to identify, record and monitor invasions; provide current and accessible lists of potential and established IAS; identify potential threats to neighbouring countries; and to access information on taxonomy, ecology, genetics and control methods. It is vital that adjacent countries, and all countries along a particular pathway for invasive species, can recognize such species and concur on their nomenclature. Baseline taxonomic information on native biota at the national level is also important to ensure that IAS can be recognized and distinguished from naturally present species.

For case studies on how taxonomy can help combat IAS, see BioNET-INTERNATIONAL's "Taxonomy Targeting Invasives".

For more information on invasive species see CBD's IAS portal and Island Biodiversity IAS page.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme