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The most important catalogue in human history? Catalogue of Life 2010 launched at UN Biodiversity Meeting in Nairobi

17 May 2010 Reading, University of

The world's most valuable asset, on which we all depend, is silently slipping through our fingers - it is the world's astounding biodiversity, in some cases lost before it is even discovered.

A catalogue detailing 1.25 million species of organisms across the world is releasing a special edition to mark the International Year of Biodiversity.

Surprisingly, scientists understand better the number of stars there are in the galaxy than species on Earth. Estimates of the total vary (2-100 million), but it is thought just 1.9 million species have been discovered so far.

The Catalogue of Life Special 2010 Edition is the most complete and integrated species list known to man. It has 77 databases feeding into an inventory of 1,257,735 species of plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms associated with 2,369,683 names.

The Catalogue of Life's DVD-Rom will be launched at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday, 19 May. The Catalogue is recognised by the CBD and its latest developments are funded by the EC e-Infrastructures Programme (4D4Life project). The programme involves 82 partner organisations across the globe and is led by Professor Frank Bisby of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading, UK.

This new edition encompasses more groups of organisms and has enhanced user functions and display features, allowing for easier access and searching of species names, relationships and additional information.

The catalogue is a free electronic resource used by thousands of researchers, professionals, projects and portals worldwide and its website ( receives 40 million hits a year.

Professor Bisby said: "The Catalogue of Life programme is vital to building the world's biodiversity knowledge systems of the future and the Special 2010 Edition is a celebration of the diversity of life on Earth. Expert validation of recorded species will not only boost our understanding of the living world today but also allow governments, agencies and businesses to improve their future modelling to benefit our natural resources, and to document biotic resources world-wide.

"Through the Convention, 193 countries attempt to manage the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources. This work is facilitated by a taxonomic framework cataloguing all known species."

Attached files

  • The catalogue holds 5,747 species of Odonata – dragonflies and damselflies. From fossil records we know that these amazing insects were flying some 300 million years ago, before even dinosaurs roamed the earth. The prehistoric "giant dragonflies” had wingspans of more than 75 cm (2.5 ft). (Sector supplied and maintained in the Catalogue by Jan van Tol at NCB Naturalis, Leiden) Photo credit Dave Dyet

  • There are over 26,801 known species of orchid in the world. The Catalogue of Life names every one. Orchids can be found globally, even above the Arctic Circle. Vanilla is an orchid. Orchids have developed highly specialised pollination systems and thus the chances of being pollinated are often scarce. Many orchids are rare and threatened – like this stunning ghost orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii. (Sector supplied and maintained in the Catalogue by Royal Botanical Gardens Kew)

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