When an ad hoc committee of 21, meeting at the International Mycological Institute on 22-23 April 1988, decided that the production of Lists of Names in Current Use at generic rank was both technically feasible and worthwhile for all groups covered by the International code of botanical nomenclature, all involved were only too conscious of the magnitude of the task and embarked on this course with some trepidation.
The publication of the present list of 28,041 generic names currently in use for extant algae, bryophytes, ferns, flowering plants, and fungi is both a tremendous achievement in itself and a great tribute to those most intimately involved in its production, namely Dick Brummitt, Ellen Farr, Werner Greuter, Norbert Kilian, Paul Kirk, and Paul Silva.
This book represents a milestone in international botanical collaboration, for this is not simply a compilation by a few specialists, but a distillation of the current state of generic nomenclature following an extensive and open review process and honing to the highest possible nomenclatural and bibliographic standards. The coordinators for the different groups are indebted to the numerous respondents who drew errors and omissions in earlier drafts to their attention. The substantial contributions made by so many specialists at the revisionary stage have been almost overwhelming and greatly enhanced the quality of the data now presented.
Taxonomists active in almost all areas of biology have been slow to produce synthetic inventories of names in current use, and it is anticipated that this list will therefore have an immense international appeal to a wide range of users and generators of biological information.
The 1988 ad hoc group had also recognised that when such lists existed, they had the potential to make significant contributions to the reduction in name changes for nomenclatural rather than scientific reasons, and to free taxonomists from some of the nomenclatural drudgery they are currently required to undertake. This potential could be realized by granting the listed names protected nomenclatural status. The significance of this possibility was recognised by the General Committee on Botanical Nomenclature, who also charged the Special Committee on Names in Current Use to develop rules to incorporate such concepts into the Code. Those proposals were finalised in 1991 following considerable debate, including a symposium on "Improving the Stability of Names: Needs and Options" held at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew on 20-23 February 1991 under the joint sponsorship of the International Union of Biological Sciences, the International Association for Plant Taxonomy and the Systematics Association. Voting will take place during the nomenclature sessions of the Fifteenth International Botanical Congress in Tokyo on 23-27 August 1993.
These moves by the botanical community have inspired a parallel initiative by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. These initiatives are in effect a response by active taxonomists to the increasing frustration many categories of biologists feel with aspects of our current nomenclatural systems.
By endorsing the principle of protecting listed names in Tokyo, whether or not this or any other actual list is adopted this year, the botanical community has the opportunity to demonstrate two things. First, that it is aware of the problem and its seriousness, and second, and even more importantly, that it is determined to take the concerted action necessary to improve the situation. If it fails to do this, preferring to cherish labyrinthuline and inordinately time-consuming procedures, which we can never be confident are final, I fear that the all too widespread image of taxonomists as both outdated and irrelevant will be reinforced.
The list presented here has the potential to become a cornerstone of a new order in biological nomenclature. It consequently merits the most serious attention. At the same time, there surely are many omissions and slips still to be rectified, despite the Herculean efforts of so many of our number. However, in commending this list to you, rather than seeking out minutiae, I urge you to focus on the broader landscape and the long-term prospects for our discipline. As remarked at the launch of the second edition of the first volume of Flora europaea in London on 11 March 1993, that was "a marvellously imperfect work needed by all". That to some extent will be true for this list, but bear in mind that mechanisms for effecting corrections will also be developed.
Finally, as chairman of the Subcommittee charged by the General Committee with co-ordinating the production of this and related lists, I wish to record my personal gratitude to two groups. First, those most intimately involved in the production of the lists who demonstrated an ability to work in a concerted manner to often stringent deadlines; and secondly to the various organizations recorded on the following page for the financial and institutional support which enabled our vision from 1988 to become a reality.
Egham, 30 June 1993
David L. Hawksworth
© by International Association for Plant Taxonomy. This page last updated June 16, 1997.