Taxonomy and nomenclature

Text started 4.12.2020. This is a difficult topic, and the text will change after receiving feedback from the reference group and others. Like all text on the website, it is also written in Norwegian and English in parallel, and in this case that offers an extra layer of challenges. Different use of terms in the two language areas is a part of the topic. We very much appreciate feedback on this article.

The goal of this article is to outline a general understanding of the topic of taxonomy and nomenclature in biology, and with that as a basis to describe the systems in Open Agro Data, both in terms of data structure and user navigation.

The life sciences depend on a system that in the best possible way reflects kinship between the life forms (taxonomy) and at the same time has a clear naming system (nomenclature) that makes it possible to keep the data about the individual life forms apart. This is necessarily an enormously complicated field, both because life in the biosphere is enormously complex, and because knowledge has developed over time, so that one must constantly change the current systems while they are in use. The result is that we now have different systems for the main groups of life forms, and in addition there is some unclear use of terms in different environments, which can be confusing.

Taxonomy systems

(Text under development)

Wikipedia(EN): Taxonomy, Taxonomic rank, Evolutionary taxonomy, Phylogenetics, Plant taxonomy, List of systems of plant taxonomy

Nomenclature systems

An attempt has been made to build an all-encompassing nomenclature for all life forms, Draft Biocode (1997) and Revised Biocode (2011, developed by the International Committee on Bionomenclature (ICB). This has not been successful so far, especially due to differences between zoology and botany. See the following:

Werner Greuter & Dan H. Nicolson: Introductory comments on the Draft BioCode, from a botanical point of view

Alain Dubois: A zoologist’s viewpoint on the Draft BioCode

Animals and other life forms

(OAD initially focuses mostly on plants, so animals and other life forms are treated and discussed when we have come this far.)

International Code of Zoological Nomenclature

Developed by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).

Wikipedia (EN): ICZN


Wikipedia (EN): Nomenclature codes

Plants, algae and fungi

The nomenclatures that currently apply to plants are:

The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN)

Developed by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy

The current version from 2017 is called the Shenzhen Code, due to the tradition of naming the codes after the location of the International Botanical Congress (ICB).

This is such a complicated document that one of the people responsible for it, Nicholas Turland, has published a guidebook called The Code Decoded, which can be read online.

See also Wikipedia on The Code, and on botanical nomenclature in general

The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP)

Developed by the International Society for Horticultural Science

See also Wikipedia on The Code, and on the taxonomy of cultivated plants

One main feature of the ICN code is the intention of phasing out all names of caused by human intervention and instead let the ICNCP take care of those.