The need for and the requirements of EuroSL, an electronic taxonomic reference list of all European plants
alga, biodiversity informatics, bryophyte, Checklist, ecoinformatics, GBIF, givd, lichen, vascular plant, vegetation-plot
Biodiversity informatics has experienced tremendous developments in the last 15 years. There are now comprehensive online checklists for plant taxa as well as many large plant-taxon related databases, including the vegetation-plot databases registered in the Global Index of Vegetation-Plot Databases (GIVD; http://www.givd.info). However, efficient maintenance, analysis, and inte- gration of these databases are still much impeded by the failure of presently available electronic taxonomic reference lists of plants to fully meet the requirements of such applications. Here we outline the principal specifications of an electronic taxonomic reference list for Europe (“EuroSL” = European standard list of plant taxa) and identify features not met in current practice. EuroSL should cover all macroscopic taxa of vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, and algae that occur in European vegetation in a uniform database, irrespec- tive of their floristic status (e.g. native, archaeophyte, neophyte, casual). The adoption of informal aggregates is essential to cover de- viating species concepts and to capture legacy data. EuroSL should not only assign names but also match taxonomic concepts. This task cannot be fully automated, as the same correctly applied taxon name can have different meanings depending on the taxonomic concept applied. In order to be a useful tool, EuroSL would need to be better documented than most existing electronic checklists and be released in fixed versions. Every subsequent version should contain an unambiguous connection linking each taxon to the corre- sponding unit in the previous version. We identify possible components of EuroSL, of which Euro+Med PlantBase, the recent Euro- pean checklists of bryophytes, and the taxonomic crosswalks between various national Turboveg checklists collected for SynBioSys Europe, are the major ones. Concepts developed for GermanSL might be adopted for EuroSL, but implemented in a software frame- work that is yet to be developed from existing tools. Such a framework would allow documented editing of the content by specialists distributed across Europe. To become successful, EuroSL would require intensive collaboration between taxonomists, ecologists and biodiversity informaticians, as well as appropriate funding. Establishing EuroSL would dramatically enhance the usability and reliabil- ity of plant-taxon related databases in Europe for the purposes of pure and applied research and conservation legislation. Its develop- ment should therefore be of highest priority.