Taxon Names in NZOR
All biodiversity information systems use the names of organisms as a fundamental identifier. Names provide the essential vocabulary by which we discover, index, manage, and share information relating to biodiversity. Access to an authoritative list of names and their relationships to species (taxa) is key to supporting information management and sharing across the conservation, biosecurity, and biotechnology sectors.
Until NZOR there was no currently no single, definitive, and maintained compilation of the over 100,000 organism names relevant to New Zealand. Because of this many agencies currently each maintain their own lists of taxonomic names in isolation from each other, in different formats, and at different levels of depth and quality. The absence of a definitive source of taxonomic names means that resources are wasted through duplication of effort; there is increased expense to end-users in having to access multiple sources, and increased risk of confused decision making.
The New Zealand Organisms Register (NZOR) is intended to address this issue. The vision, developed by a multi-agency steering group established in 2006, for the project was:
“to create an accurate, authoritative, comprehensive and continuously updated catalogue of taxonomic names of all New Zealand biota and other taxa of importance to New Zealand. This catalogue will be electronically available through one or more portals, and will be directly integrated into biodiversity and biosecurity systems used by central government ministries, departments, and agencies, local government, research institutes, NGOs and the wider community. The catalogue will be based on internationally agreed standards and will include organism names and synonymies, origin and occurrence data (presence/absence) and where possible alternate and historical synonymies. In the future it will link to information from other sources on aspects such as threats, ecology, distribution, use, management status, published material, keys for identification, and all collections, observation and survey data. As such it will form a key part of New Zealand’s bioinformatics infrastructure, supporting scientific research and biodiversity and biosecurity management.”
A more detailed description of the original proposal for NZOR may be found in the scoping document: What’s in a name?, Carver et al, 2000