An expert curated global legume checklist improves the accuracy of occurrence, biodiversity and taxonomic data

Published in Research Data
An expert curated global legume checklist improves the accuracy of occurrence, biodiversity and taxonomic data

Legumes is a cosmopolitan group of plants with economic value and many uses. But a challenge has developed over time – where can users find an accurate list of species names? Scientific names have accumulated with the discovery of new species and an improved understanding of species limits and relationships as a result of the application of modern techniques and new insights. These scientific names are central to effective communication among users in their research, in online biodiversity data portals, and more broadly. Therefore, the legume taxonomy community gathered forces under the umbrella of the Legume Phylogeny Working Group and initiated creating a global, community-endorsed consensus species list. The legume community also wanted to measure the impact of an actively curated names list using occurrence data, which could, in future, stimulate further taxonomic research and provide a metric to support funding applications.

A group of 80 legume taxon experts from 24 countries worked together, in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to create an updated legume checklist. This list provided the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) the opportunity to update their taxonomic backbone and accordingly the associated occurrence records. A comparison between the legume checklist and the GBIF taxonomic backbone showed that 30,456 names were missing from the GBIF taxonomic backbone. Once those names were added and the GBIF taxonomic backbone updated with the new legume checklist, names of all legume occurrence records in GBIF were compared between the older and updated versions. This comparison showed that the names of 61,235 occurrence records were more accurately labelled because of better matching to the improved GBIF taxonomic backbone and the contribution of the legume taxonomic community.

The legume checklist forms part of the World Checklist of Vascular Plants, now included in Plants of the World Online, and the World Flora Online taxonomic backbone. Continued curation will help to improve the legume checklist as new research becomes available and the network of taxon experts grow.

Photo: Poissonia weberbaueri (Harms) Lavin, © Gwilym Lewis, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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