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What’s in a name?

In order to precisely identify and communicate information about a plant species, biodiversity researchers must use its scientific name. However, determining the correct application of a scientific name is often a complex process that involves not only the name itself, but also how it relates to the many thousands of other published names. As a result, throughout the history of botany, various efforts have been made to maintain lists that track the correct usage of these names. The botanical publications of the past 250 years have resulted in the creation of well over a million names that are intertwined in a vast web of potential connections. The tracking of these names is a problem that relational databases like TROPICOS, IPNI, and others are uniquely suited to overcome. This site leverages the data accumulated in TROPICOS over the past 40 years in order to present a comprehensive list of accepted bryophyte names. Moreover, because TROPICOS is a dynamic resource that is actively maintained by bryologists at MO, updates and corrections to this list can be made available relatively quickly.

Background

This nomenclator is a continuation of the work of many bryologists over the years. The dataset presented here is descended from two massive bibliographic projects for cataloging the published names of bryophytes — Index Muscorum and Index Hepaticarum. In fact, the very first dataset entered into the nascent TROPICOS database in the 1980s was the moss nomenclature from the five-volume set of Index Muscorum. That baseline dataset combined with updates from the Index of Mosses and Recent Literature on Bryophytes series have maintained TROPICOS as the most comprehensive public database of moss names. Liverwort names have lagged behind the moss names in TROPICOS but many were added during the compilation of the Index of Hepatics volume along with the most recent Index of Bryophytes issues and RLB. Many more liverwort names were digitized as part of the Index Hepaticarum project at the Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques (G) and these names have found their way into TROPICOS by way of the Early Land Plants Today project at the Field Museum and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. We are very grateful for a recent data exchange with the ELPT project courtesy of Matt von Konrat, Lars Söderström, and Anders Hagborg that allowed us to add about 11,000 liverwort names that were missing from TROPICOS. It now includes all the names contained in the recently published world checklist of hornworts and liverworts. The last world checklist of moss names was produced by Marshall Crosby over 20 years ago. However, Marshall kindly contributed a more recent manuscript version of his moss checklist that formed the seed data for the moss synonymy in this nomenclator. The liverwort synonymy presented here was compiled by JCB using the world checklist as the seed data combined with synonymy from TROPICOS and the published literature.

Technical

This website is a module extracted from a web application written by JCB that produces a synoptic display of the bryophyte nomenclatural data in TROPICOS. The module operates on a snapshot of TROPICOS combined with any supplementary data as necessary. Whenever possible, corrections are first made in TROPICOS and then merged into this site in later snapshots. Therefore, the source for all the core nomenclatural data presented here is TROPICOS and every name is hyperlinked to its TROPICOS record. In order to allow for differing interpretations, TROPICOS intentionally does not provide “accepted” or “correct” names of taxa except in cases where the rules of nomenclature demand it. Many find this refreshing, while many others find it frustrating. Our aim with this site is to fill the needs of those who wish to have a list that provides a single name for each bryophyte species along with a comprehensive synonymy. We are not foolish enough to believe that this list is perfect, but it is our best attempt based on our understanding of the literature, herbarium practices, etc. There are many practical uses for such a list and consequently having a high-quality version is worth the effort required. The large number of bryophyte names makes this task nearly impossible without a database, therefore this process represents the logical next step in compiling, maintaining, and distributing these data. Because the data presented here are both dynamic and public, we hope this site will help facilitate collaboration among bryologists and minimize potential nomenclatural errors.

Get involved

Online, digital resources like TROPICOS, IPNI, and the World Flora Online are increasingly becoming the primary sources that people use to obtain information about plants and their scientific names. Efforts made to ensure that these resources are as accurate and up to date as possible will benefit all bryologists and anyone else interested in exploring digital data about bryophyte species. We encourage taxonomic experts interested in contributing their bryological expertise to contact us. As more experts review this dataset, the more accurate and useful it will become. Many bryologists have contributed to TROPICOS over the years, either by entering data directly or by sending corrections and literature to those of us who do. Like all scientific endeavors it has been a collaborative effort that has expanded on the work of previous researchers. Naturally, we hope to see this continued in the future. Because various projects require a list of accepted bryophyte names, we intend to use this tool as a means to provide that information. Among other things, this includes the bryophyte taxonomic expert network for the World Flora Online and the GLOBAL TCN digitization project.

Who we are

John Brinda is an assistant scientist at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, with research interests in the taxonomy, ecology, and conservation of bryophytes, including field experience in the United States, southern Chile, Madagascar, and the Philippines. He is a member of the IAPT Nomenclatural Committee for Bryophytes, sits on the steering committee for the TROPICOS botanical database, and is a point of contact for the World Flora Online bryophyte taxonomic expert network.

John Atwood is a research specialist for the Missouri Botanical Garden whose interests include the taxonomy and nomenclature of bryophytes, especially liverworts. For the past several years he has contributed to the Recent Literature on Bryophytes project that is published in each issue of The Bryologist. The RLB project is one of the main reasons why TROPICOS is the most comprehensive and up to date public database of bryological nomenclature.