Although Charles Darwin himself intended to compile a complete catalog of all known plant species more than a century ago, such is yet to be realized. An international research team now present the first ever worldwide checklist of hornworts and liverworts, prepared as a part of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation aiming to list the whole plant kingdom by 2020.
Both liverworts and hornworts are of critical biological and ecological value, and an important component of the vegetation in many regions of the world. Liverworts, for example, are so widespread that can be found all the way from coastal Antarctica to the tundra of the Northern hemisphere and from the quite dry areas of Australia to the rainforest of Amazonia. Growing almost everywhere, they have turned into a microhabitat for a myriad of organisms such as single-celled eukaryotes, protozoa, and a wide range of invertebrates.
Moreover, both liverworts and hornworts play a vital role in the global carbon and carbon dioxide cycle. In the past they have even been used as climate change indicators and could be used as such to track potential signs of global warming in future.
The new database includes over 25,000 publications, almost 39,000 published names, and over 700,000 geographical observations. In summary they authors have assembled names for 7486 valid species in 398 genera representing 92 families from the two phyla.
The broader accessibility to the wealth of auxiliary data will help augment monographic and revisionary work for many taxonomic groups, aid in identifying the need for increased floristic and survey work in many regions throughout the world, and have broad implications and applications beyond taxonomic research such as conservation science. However, such an effort can only be successful if it comes with sustained funding and infrastructure rather than depending on an ad hoc commitment by a few individuals, however dedicated.
Time to build a full barcode reference library.