Who will name new plant species? Temporal change in the origins of taxonomists in China


Discovery rates of new plant species need to be accelerated because many species will be extinct before they are formally described. Current studies have focused on where new species may occur and their characteristics. However, who will actually discover and describe these new species has received limited attention. Here, we used 31 576 vascular plant species distributed and described in China as a case study to explore the temporal patterns of the nationalities of the taxonomists. We found that most recently described species are endemic species, and there has been an increasing proportion of species descriptions by resident Chinese taxonomists over time. The proportion of species described by resident taxonomists reached an average of 80.8% between 1977 and 2018. By contrast, species discoveries by non-resident experts, often non-endemic species, showed signs of levelling off. Our study underscores an urgent need for training of, support for and collaboration with resident taxonomists in megadiverse countries with a high potential of discovering undescribed plant species.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences