Background

Our understanding of biodiversity and its evolutionary and ecological organization is being hampered by our highly incomplete taxonomic knowledge for most groups of organisms.

Taxonomy and the development of natural history collections have been the foundation for studying species diversity on Earth.

Advances in information technology and DNA-based approaches can improve the rate of species description and identification.

However, the scale of the task prevents the generation of complete inventories except for a few select groups.

For most of biodiversity, future approaches therefore will have to rely on extrapolations and statistical models that establish the magnitude and distribution of species richness and make inferences about the causes of diversity.

Project aims

The need for higher quality information on biodiversity patterns and change requires an approach that:

  • is based on standardized subsampling and spatially defined plots, for the application of explicit models of taxonomic richness and turnover
  • employs latest sequencing technology for the site-based analysis of taxonomically intractable groups (‘genomic observatories’)
  • calibrates new DNA-based approaches against classical taxonomy
  • links biodiversity and genomic information to ecosystem function and process data (e.g. biogeochemistry, remote sensing etc.), and ultimately will inform environmental policy.