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Abstract Detail

Where is plant systematics headed in the next ten years?

Turland, Nicholas [1].

Is botanical nomenclature outdated?

In July 2011, the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne approved major changes to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, one being to change the title to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants so as to reflect that it governs the naming not only of plants but of fungi and algae too. Major changes to the content include new rules on electronic publication, mandatory registration of fungal names, the abandonment of "dual nomenclature" for pleomorphic fungi, the abandonment of the concept of morphotaxa in fossils, and permitting the use of English, as an alternative to Latin, for a validating description or diagnosis. The Editorial Committee of the Code was also given an explicit mandate to restructure and clarify the chapter on valid publication.

I now ask a question: does the new Melbourne Code, with all these new features, adequately serve the users of today? Does the Code still function to minimize ambiguity in naming plants, thereby enabling scientists to communicate effectively about the organisms they study? Or has the Code become an impediment to systematics? Various concepts have been discussed over the last few decades: electronic publication, lists of protected names (Names in Current Use, NCU), mandatory registration of names, a new nomenclatural starting point (as was done by the bacteriologists), unified bionomenclature (the BioCode), and clade-based (phylogenetic) rather than rank-based ("Linnaean") nomenclature (the PhyloCode). These concepts are briefly discussed, examining potential benefits and drawbacks.

The Code functions because it enjoys international consensus. Major changes to botanical nomenclature require that consensus. New concepts cannot be imposed upon an unwilling international community. However, if a new concept achieves widespread support, but not a consensus, there is a danger of schism, which afflicted botanical nomenclature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most notably when the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature and the American Code of Botanical Nomenclature operated separately for the first three decades of the 20th century. If schism were to become a real threat, it would be imperative to find ways of accommodating strongly held opposing opinions.

Broader Impacts:

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1 - Missouri Botanical Garden, Division of Science and Conservation, P.O. Box 299, Saint Louis, MO, 63166-0299, USA


Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: SY07
Location: Franklin A/Hyatt
Date: Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Time: 2:30 PM
Number: SY07003
Abstract ID:691

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