Mission to map 10 million species in 50 years

Natural History Museum, Mrs Morgan's Florilegium, Natalie Waddell, conservation, biodiversity

Some 18,000 new plant and animal species are discovered each year, but this number is dwarfed by the estimated 10 million more species yet discovered.

A group of scientists argues, however, that this could be achieved in just 50 years with the right kind of interdisciplinary collaboration and public support.

Experts including representatives from the International Institute for Species Exploration and the Natural History Museum in London have published their “grand plan” called Mapping the Biosphere, detailing how.

If the plan is put into action now, they say, we may be able to sustain the Earth’s biodiversity. This is crucial because the planet’s species are going extinct at an increasing rate.

If the goal is to be achieved, the rate of new discoveries would need to increase from 18,000 to 200,000 species per year.

The key actions needed to achieve this are to use and share worldwide collections, expertise and the latest technologies, as well as to raise public awareness.

Taxonomists, who identify, name and classify species, are crucial. However, a generation of these experts is retiring without their knowledge being passed on. Lack of funding is another problem.

Members of the public can also play an important role, however, as they are increasingly active partners in discovering and documenting species each year too.

Portals like Encylopedia of Life, and the digitisation of resources like the Biodiversity Heritage Library, are speeding up and increasing the accessibility of this important information.

The move in January to accept electronic publication for naming new plants has helped speed up the rate of recording new species.

The team behind Mapping the Biosphere says that without this information we could miss opportunities to learn how nature solves problems that relate to our own sustainable survival, and to learn from the early responses plants and animals have to climate change.

Via nhm.ac.uk

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