This changes everything: Dynamic floras and the disruption of traditional taxonomic practice

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    © CSIRO 2016.Flora writing has traditionally been an important but sporadic part of the taxonomic process. The gap between the completion of Bentham's Flora australiensis and the commencement of the Flora of Australia project, for example, was 103 years. Floras are generally written by small teams (occasionally by single authors) based in single or coordinated networks of institutions, and function as authoritative, point-in-time syntheses of taxonomic activity during the years preceding their creation. Of course, since taxonomy is a dynamic and (potentially) open-ended science, it is often the case that as soon as a Flora treatment is published, it is rendered superseded by ongoing taxonomy. The traditional taxonomic process can, thus, be modelled as a cyclic alternation of open, unconstrained, more-or-less unmediated taxonomic activity (hypothesis generation) punctuated by short phases of synthesis, constraint and mediation (hypothesis consolidation). The opportunity to move from paper Flora publication to digital management and delivery of eFloras may substantially change this model. Although traditional Floras are understood to be unitary, authoritative, synthetic, sporadic and static, eFloras are expected to be unitary, authoritative, synthetic, continuous and dynamic. There is potential tension between the first three expectations of an eFlora (that it be unitary, authoritative and synthetic) and the last two (that it be continuous and dynamic). Resolving this tension may necessitate a change in the way taxonomy is conducted, mediated and managed; the implications of such change will need to be carefully considered, and the change will need to be carefully managed, to make the most of the opportunities of eFloras, while retaining the values of an open, vigorous taxonomic science.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)172-175
    Number of pages4
    JournalAustralian Systematic Botany
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2016


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