Taxonomic inflation: its influence on macroecology and conservation

Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Sep;19(9):464-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2004.06.004.


Species numbers are increasing rapidly. This is due mostly to taxonomic inflation, where known subspecies are raised to species as a result in a change in species concept, rather than to new discoveries. Yet macroecologists and conservation biologists depend heavily on species lists, treating them as accurate and stable measures of biodiversity. Deciding on a standardized, universal species list might ameliorate the mismatch between taxonomy and the uses to which it is put. However, taxonomic uncertainty is ultimately due to the evolutionary nature of species, and is unlikely to be solved completely by standardization. For the moment, at least, users must acknowledge the limitations of taxonomic species and avoid unrealistic expectations of species lists.