Termites are important ecosystem engineers. Yet they are often difficult to identify due to the lack of reliable species-specific morphological traits for many species, which hampers ecological research. Recently, termitologists working with West African termites (West African Termite Taxonomy Initiative) convened for a workshop with the aim of beginning to address this problem. Repeated determination of the same termite samples by the most renowned taxonomists for West African termites identified the huge scale of the problem, as less than 10% of all species could be unambiguously determined to the species level. Intensive discussions and comparisons increased the identification success to around 25% at the end of the workshop. Yet many groups remained problematic and molecular markers and barcoding techniques combined with species delimitation approaches will be needed to help resolve these existing taxonomic problems. Based on the outcome of this workshop, we propose concerted initiatives to address termite taxonomy on a global scale. We are convinced that dedicated workshops on regional taxonomy that follow a similar structured approach, with repeated determination of the same sample, will help overcome the difficulties that termite taxonomy faces. This initiative can also serve as a blueprint for other taxonomical groups that are difficult to identify.
Keywords: Africa; Isoptera; barcoding; ecology; social insect; taxonomy; termite.