Week-long meeting on naming algae, fungi, and plants recorded for posterity

The week-long discussions and decisions of the Nomenclature Section of the XVIII International Botanical Congress took place in Melbourne, Australia in July 2011. This meeting is held every six years and it is where the world’s premier experts on the rules… for naming algae, fungi and plants get together to debate and update the rule book for naming the organisms they study.

This is the primary product of the meeting, the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, which was published in 2012. The other important product is the official report for the historical record, which has just been published as an open-access forum paper in PhytoKeys.

Several significant decisions were made at this meeting, most visibly the change of the title of the rules of nomenclature from the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature – which implies it applies only to plants – to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants – which accurately reflects its scope. This change had been particularly desired by mycologists, the scientists who study fungi.

There were other major changes, foremost among them the possibility to publish new names of algae, fungi, and plants in electronic form only. This means that printed copies, which had previously been mandatory, are no longer required. Another break with tradition was to allow English to be used as an alternative to Latin when publishing formal descriptions of organisms new to science. Previously only Latin could be used.

Co-author Nicholas Turland said “Permitting electronic-only publication was arguably the most important decision made in Melbourne, bringing taxonomy into the 21st century and the electronic age. As for Latin, it has become increasingly difficult to use and is often regarded as an irrelevant anachronism by modern scientists. The meeting clearly wanted an alternative.”

Photo caption: This is the Nomenclature Section of the XVIII International Botanical Congress, Melbourne, Australia, July 2011.

(Photo Credit: IBC2011; photograph by Michael Silver / Photonet.)

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