4.17. The three taxonomic tasks of description,
identification and phylogeny are supported by key resources, in
particular by research collections. The largest national collections,
such as those housed at The NHM and RBG Kew, continue to be world-class
resources and new developments, such as the Darwin Centre and
the Millennium Seed Bank, are world-leading facilities.
4.18. Regional and university museums represent
an important archive providing essential reference material for
teaching and housing voucher collections for reference by local
recorders. Professor Mace indicated why these collections
were valued: "taxonomists, zoologists and botanists, as part
of their training need to have access to the specimens themselves"there
was, she said "absolutely no replacement for the real object"
(Q 63). These collections are important both for validation
of biological records and for training both scientists and new
generations of naturalist specialists.
4.19. Smaller collections are vulnerable and
their future appears insecure. In the case of plant collections,
of 602 herbaria present in Britain in 1945, 97 have been destroyed
or cannot be traced, 230 have been transferred to existing institutions,
the whereabouts of 106 are currently unknown, leaving 169 extant
(preliminary data from survey by the BSBI, p 88). Adrian Norris,
a retired Senior Curator of Natural Sciences at Leeds City Museums,
commented that "the development of Regional Museum HUBS and
the extra funding from the DCMS has made some difference,"
but urged that this funding be allocated so that museums can "fund
strategic taxonomic tasks by employing trained taxonomists, as
well as funding the proper storage of their collections"
(p 284). Continued support from Government for regional and
university museums, through programmes such as the Renaissance
in the Regions programme, is essential.
National Biodiversity Network
4.20. The UK's Biological Records Centre (now
hosted by the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Wallingford)
and many Local Record Centres are connected virtually by the NBN.
The NBN provides access to over 27 million species distribution
records from 229 different datasets"the majority of
these derive from voluntary recording organisations or from local
record centres"and it makes analytical tools available
through its portal, the NBN Gateway (p 146). The NBN functions
as a facilitating body and its funding, which is made up from
payments from its member organisations, is described as "very
fragile" because it is dependent upon individual priorities
set by its members (Q 217). The Committee recognises the
pivotal role played by the NBN in making datasets available electronically
and in facilitating access to a wide range of users.
4.21. The Committee welcomes the establishment
by Defra of the Fund for Innovation in Local Biodiversity Recording.
This fund, administered by Natural England, will make £181,000
available during the year 2008-09 for building capacity in Local
Record Centres and to increase the geographical scope, quantity
and quality of biological information served through the NBN (p 54
and Q 318).
4.22. In view of the continuing success of
the NBN in accessing and serving data, and its importance in engaging
with and empowering the large voluntary sector involved in biological
recording nationally, the Committee urges Defra to assist the
NBN in moving towards a less fragile funding model.
19 Taxonomy in Europe in the 21st Century
(Report prepared for the Board of Directors of EDIT). Back
A Taylor, United Kingdom Taxonomic Needs Assessment. Natural
History Museum/Defra 23/02/2006. Back