Taxonomy and the GTI

Taxonomic Research

The classical and relatively narrow definition of taxonomical research says: “Taxonomy is the area of biological science that deals with the naming (nomenclature), identification and classification of organisms.”

The differentiation of taxonomy from other biological research disciplines is not always easy. Overlaps exist for example in the area of biosystematics, even though the main focus lies here more on phylogenetic relationships and hierarchical classifications. Taxonomic research is engaged in the naming of organisms in accordance with Popper’s understanding of science: The hypothesis which states the unity of organism, species and name is being verified or falsified by using different methods (Enghoff, 2009).

Aside from the so called “alpha-taxonomy” there are other scientific areas where taxonomy plays a crucial role, starting from phylogeny and evolutionary science where morphologic and genetic studies form a fundamental basis. Moreover the knowledge of species is an important prerequisite for faunistic and floristic studies as well as for nature inventories. In many cases such studies bring about revisions of generas or orders, which are again part of taxonomy.

Taxonomic research predominantly takes place at natural sciences museums, where quite a large number of taxonomists conduct teir work in out-of-office hours or on a voluntary basis. While the numbers of taxonomists in Germany seems to stagnate or even decrease due to poor professional prospects (see study conducted by NeFo "Taxonomic Research in Germany - An Overview"), the numbers on a global scale are increasing. This is in particularly true for countries with extremely high biodiversity numbers such as Brazil and China.

On this website an overview of taxonomic research projects is given and case studies are presented in order to show the huge significance of the correct naming of organisms. For the future it is evident that the relevance of taxonomy-based research will increase especially in the face of climate change-related shifts of distribution areas of plants, animals and human pathogens.


Global Taxonomy Initiative

GTI stands for Global Taxonomy Initiative, which was established in 1998 as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in order to strengthen taxonomic knowldege and resources. The GTI is a cross-cutting issue of the CBD. This indicates the relevance of GTI for other thematic programme contents and is also conveyed by the content of its work programme. The GTI generally consists of National Focal Points (NFP), which either already exist or are currently in planning. The contents of the GTI are a set of activities and objectives agreed on by the CBD member states. For more information please consult the GTI guide.

National focal points

National focal points have been nominated by Governments of 96 member states including Germany on encouragement of the COP (as of October 2011). Their role is to draw connections and increase information exchange in order to enhance the implementation of the GTI on national level. The NFPs are also responsible for communication and collaboration with NFPs of other countries and thereby enable the GTI implementation on regional and global level. Furthermore the NFPs have to answer requests by the COP and the CBD-secreteriat regarding the GTI process. For countries which have not yet nominated a GTI focal point, the national CBD focal point is being used as official GTI contact.

You will find a list of all national focal points on the CBD-website.

Some national focal points have created websites: Argentina, Belgium, Japan