National consultation on Advancing the Science of Taxonomy in India for Biodiversity Conservation

Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) is organizing a national consultation on ‘Advancing the Science of Taxonomy in India for Biodiversity Conservation’ at its premises in Bangalore on February 23, in commemoration of The International Year of Biodiversity 2010.

Eminent scientists from across the country will address issues pertaining to international and national trends in taxonomy and the potential roles and responsibilities of Indian taxonomists in a global context. Identifying and quantifying species is critical in meeting targets and obligations of international treaties and conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, and national legislations such as the Biological Diversity Act. The group will deliberate on policies, limitations and obstacles faced by Indian taxonomists today, and outline steps to leverage national and international expertise, networks and relevant stakeholders to strengthen the science of taxonomy in India. The group will also discuss the application of the latest tools in web-based technologies and molecular biology to give impetus to the science in India.

Dr. Gautam P.L. (Chairman, National Biodiversity Authority), Dr. Madhav Gadgil (Emeritus Professor, Agharkar Research Institute, Pune), Dr. Ramakrishna (Director, Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata), Dr. Ganeshaiah K N (Prof. & Head, Dept. of Forestry & Environment, GKVK, Bangalore), and Dr. Narayanan Nair K (Scientist, National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow) are some of the names expected. Organizing partners for the seminar are Indian Association for Angiosperm Taxonomy (IAAT), School of Ecology and Conservation, University of Agricultural Sciences (SEC – UAS), and the Western Ghats Invertebrate Research and Conservation Network (WGIRC) under the aegis of the National Biodiversity Authority.

Taxonomy is generally embedded in local cultural and social systems, and serves various social functions. The history of taxonomy can be traced back to the history of man, when he started to differentiate animals and plants in his surroundings. Every society in the world has its own system of naming plants and animals, every language and dialect is rich in local taxonomic knowledge. These naming systems form vital information for survival - such as information on the fruiting patterns of trees, habits of the game mammals etc.

Today, species extinction is faster than species discovery, which makes our scientific surmises on evolution, ecology, biodiversity and molecular biology less robust than we assume. This has implications for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and other biodiversity-based livelihoods, as well as our ability to combat old and new diseases – enterprises that require robust taxonomic foundations.

Due to the realization of the importance of biodiversity, taxonomy is at the threshold of a revival all over the world today. Taxonomy is making rapid strides by imbibing energy from developments in molecular and computational techniques. Discussions are going on all over the world on making traditional taxonomy user friendly and delivering its results to the world through internet and other electronic media. There are many global initiatives today to make information on any species available with the click of a mouse. Yet developments in the field of taxonomy in the rest of the world are not substantially reflected in India.