STRATEGIES FOR SAFEGUARDING THE BIODIVERSITY THROUGH TAXONOMIC EXPERTISE

M Sanjappa
Botanical Survey of India
CGO Complex, 3rd MSO Building,
Salt Lake, KOLKATA 700 064

Taxonomy is the practice of naming life forms and arranging them in classifications that reflect patterns of relationships. Taxonomy forms part of the science of systematics, which deals with organisation, history and evolution of life, its diversification and distribution in space and time. It is the tool by which the components of biological diversity at the species level are identified and enumerated, and it therefore provides the basic knowledge nderpinning efforts to conserve biological diversity, optimise the use of biological resources in a sustainable way, and
enhance the quality of life in diverse human societies. Taxonomists are trained biological scientists who specialize in the identification, formal description; classification, and naming of plants, animals and microorganisms. Taxonomy underlies our understanding of biodiversity because it addresses fundamental questions such as the kinds of organisms that exist, their number, how they are related to each other, where they occur, and then allocate names to them in a systematic manner.

Without this basic knowledge of the facts of biodiversity, its conservation cannot proceed in an informed, and therefore sustainable, manner. In particular, by allocating universally recognised names to organisms, taxonomy provides a common language for communication about biodiversity. The discipline of taxonomy is based on universal principles developed nearly 300 years that have passed since the pioneering work of Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish naturalist. The basis of these taxonomic principles is recognition of structural resemblances among organisms, so that if organisms have similar Structures, they may be regarded as members of the same classification group, that is, they are closely related to each other, and therefore their naming should reflect this close relationship. Intrinsic to the discipline of taxonomy is the recognition that related organisms may occur in widely disparate parts of the earth. This means that it is often not possible to carry out taxonomic studies of the biota of a particular region or country in isolation; these studies must be placed in their global context by comparative analysis.

Taxonomists generally gain their qualifications by undertaking Studies in biology at a university and then undertaking postgraduate or specialist research in taxonomy. In gaining their taxonomic qualifications they earn the skills of collecting, identifying, describing and naming, classifying, and elucidating the distribution of the groups of plants, animals or microorganisms in which they intend to specialize, all within the
formal framework of the Codes and within the accepted scientific culture of precedence, peer review, and publication. Taxonomists are predominantly employed in herbaria, museums, government agencies such as departments of conservation and agriculture, and in universities. Thus, in most countries the employment of taxonomists is heavily dependent on the government funding that supports such
institutions.