Towards a global list of accepted species IV: Overcoming fragmentation in the governance of taxonomic lists

Aaron M. Lien, Stijn Conix, Frank E. Zachos, Les Christidis, Peter Paul van Dijk, Olaf S. Bánki, Saroj K. Barik, John S. Buckeridge, Mark John Costello, Donald Hobern, Narelle Montgomery, Svetlana Nikolaeva, Richard L. Pyle, Kevin Thiele, Scott A. Thomson, Zhi Qiang Zhang, Stephen T. Garnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Governance is the act of governing or organizing, that is a system of rules, norms, or shared strategies to guide or regulate the actions of the governed. Since the initial development of Linnaean taxonomy, a diversity of approaches have been adopted for critical taxonomic decisions, introducing pluralism to taxonomic principles and resulting in disagreements about the development of species lists. These disagreements are in part a product of the fragmented governance structure that has developed for the creation of taxonomic lists. To address these challenges and achieve the goal of a single, accepted list of life on Earth, a new governance structure for the development of taxonomic lists is needed. Here, we introduce three high-level categories of governance structure—fragmentation, monocentric governance, and polycentric governance—which differ in the way decision-making power is distributed and coordinated. We then show the problems caused by the fragmented governance structure currently in place for the development of taxonomic lists and consider the potential for a new approach grounded in either monocentric or polycentric governance. Both monocentric and polycentric approaches have the potential to address the problems inherent in the existing fragmented system. Ultimately, the best governance system for taxonomic lists will be the one that the taxonomic community is prepared to accept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-655
Number of pages11
JournalOrganisms Diversity and Evolution
Issue number4
Early online dateJul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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