Scientists have put forward a plan to put together the world’s first universally recognised list of species on the planet. The creation of this list could end many years of back-and-forth on the classifications of living things.
Coming together in the form of a 10-point-plan, the list will bring together an authoritative list of species, and will include a governance mechanism to ensure that it is of good quality. This will bring order to a topic that has generated much confusion over the years.
Those involved hope that the list would also be helpful in worldwide efforts to fight the loss of biodiversity, endangered wildlife trade, biosecurity and conservation.
There are approximately 26 different concepts for determining what constitutes a species. For this reason, biologists often do not agree on what makes a species, and this is the most basic classification of an organism.
Therefore, organisations, scientists, and governments use different and separate lists of mammals, fungi, and other organisms.
Often, a species is determined by whether or not living things can exchange DNA and procreate to reproduce viable offspring. However, there are times when the lines between species are blurred.
“For probably 90% of the species, there are natural units, they don’t interbreed and they’re well behaved. But there’s 10% that are busy evolving and we have to make this decision about what is the species and is not,” said lead author Stephen Garnett, a professor of conservation and sustainable livelihoods at Charles Darwin University in Australia, to The Guardian.
“The public is expecting science to be able to do that. And science hasn’t got a system for doing it reliably.”
The list to be created would be rooted in science and would separate the governance of naming of species from validating species.
While there are projects (such as the Catalogue of Life) working on global indices or species, none have been universally accepted and used.