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iPlants (project completed 2006)

Accelerating the production of a list of all the world's plant species

home page of the iPlants project © iPlants & Kew

The iPlants project aimed to accelerate the production of an accessible and authoritative synonymised checklist of all the world's plants together with their global distribution and, where possible, an image. The project also explored ways of accelerating the production of Preliminary Conservation Assessments (

The iPlants project represented a major advance in collaboration in the botanical community: developing methods and synergies to maximise the impact of data on key concerns in conservation and science. iPlants has derived a more precise view of the particular demands of a broad spectrum of users working in health, the pharmaceutical industry, sustainable development and publishing as well as conservation. iPlants measured the impact of the name index on these particular industries and the costs of continuing without such a list. For example:  85% of possible outcomes when searching GenBank using plant names would be more accurate, more complete or both if the iPlants index were included.  In species lists used by other initiatives, typically between 25% and 40% of their names are in error thus preventing users from accessing existing information and, for example, distorting conservation initiatives locally, regionally and globally.

Procedures and tools have been, tested, modified and documented both for building the name index and for production of Preliminary Conservation Assessments. This documentation has been used by others. It influenced IUCN in formulating a strategy to complete Target 2 of the GSPC (Preliminary Conservation Assessments of all vascular plants and bryophytes), and the Sampled Red List Index. Some of the software developed is being used by other parties to compile checklists (see GSPC Target 1 project).

The project involved collaboration between RBG Kew, Missouri Botanical Garden and New York Botanical Garden. It began with initial discussions in 2002 and a grant for an eight month pilot phase was awarded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in April 2004. This was followed by an extension grant and this pilot phase was completed in March 2006. The three institutions signed a memorandum of collaboration to work towards the goals of this project, which broadly coincided with Targets 1 and 2 of the GSPC.

The last phase of the project had several aspects: completion of checklists of Bignoniaceae, Lecythidaceae and Iridaceae as begun in the first phase and in development and documentation of procedures for the peer review of these data; the linking of checklist data to other sources such as GenBank; and gathering of quantitative data on the impact of authoritative checklists on other information sources. One of the major barriers to efficient collaborative checklist building is that name data from diverse sources is not standardised. Improvment of standardisation of baseline name data has been investigated by linking IPNI and TROPICOS and exploring methodology for bulk standardisation.

Project duration: 2002-2006

Project partners and collaborators

USAMissouri Botanical Garden
New York Botanical Garden

Project funders

USAGordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Project team

DirectorateEimear Nic Lughadha
HerbariumWilliam Baker, Justin Moat, Alan Paton
ISDBob Allkin, Mark Jackson
Science Teams: 
Project Leader: