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Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation 2010- A working list of known plant species - COMPLETED

Work towards a widely accessible working list of known plant species.

The 2010 Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) was, “A widely accessible working list of known plant species, as a step towards a complete world flora”. That Target underpinned the Strategy since without such a list measuring progress towards the other 15 targets of the GSPC reliably would be impossible. RBG Kew played a lead role in developing the GSPC and Target 1 in particular, providing the background documentation and rationale to the Conference of Parties to the CBD which approved the Strategy and its Targets in April 2002. RBG Kew was then invited to facilitate the Stakeholder consultation on Target 1 by the Secretariat of the CBD. This in turn led to an international workshop, hosted by RBG Kew and Species 2000 which identified the major barriers to completion of the Target, suggested solutions to these barriers and analysed the status of checklist production for plant families and major gaps. The outcome of this exercise enabled GBIF to prioritise funding for seed money grants, and as a result, checklists were produced for the two major gaps in coverage: the Compositae and Melastomataceae. The gap analysis was updated and published in 2008.

In 2008 it was recognized that the 2010 target was unlikely to be met through traditional checklist compilation by taxonomists. Collaborators at Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden, began designing and testing automated processes to merge multiple existing plant name data sets held by Kew, Missouri and by others into a single consistent ‘working list of known plant species”. The resulting database was released on 29 December 2010 as The Plant List ( thus meeting the 2010 Target. We are indebted to our collaborators worldwide for making this possible.

Development of The Plant List involved merging multiple taxonomic sources containing information about the accepted name and their synonymy relationships. Existing global monographic datasets were our starting point and these were augmented by additional names and synonymy derived from regional and national floristic datasets. Conflicting opinions and inconsistences within the data were detected and then resolved using automatic application of various sets of decision rules. Species names not accounted for in any of the previously incorporated data sets were added from nomenclatural resources, ensuring the list is comprehensive for all plant names.

The Plant List is not being maintained as an independent data set. It is not intended to duplicate or replace the significant efforts of the taxonomic community to produce global monographs. Instead we plan to produce a second (and possibly further) versions of The Plant List which will include updated versions of the data sets used to create Version 1 and additional data sets from others wishing to collaborate with us. The next version will also benefit from significant improvements in our data processing and logical rule base used to create The Plant List based on our experience and feedback to Version 1.

Kew’s World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP) ( is both the most significant source of data for The Plant List and a valuable reference resource in its own right, holding peer reviewed summaries of the nomenclature, geographic distribution and habit information for all species in 173 plant families (around 123,000 species). Kew has produced online checklists of families covered by our systematic teams, notably all the Monocotyledon families as well as Rubiaceae, Lamiaceae, Myrtaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and in collaboration with ILDIS, Leguminosae. (See documentation for these teams. Data from is supplied to the Catalogue of Life.

Data subsets are supplied to many collaborators and for example provided the initial core of a National list of Brazilian plants published in 2010 by the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden following a 3 year collaborative initiative including input from many Kew staff.

Kew also plays a major role in maintaining and developing the online International Plant Names Index (IPNI) which provides baseline nomenclatural data necessary for all checklists and taxonomic research worldwide. IPNI is a collaborative venture between RBG Kew, Harvard University, and the Centre for Plant Diversity Research, Canberra.

Key publications 2008-2011

  • Paton, A.J. & Nic Lughadha, E. (2011). The irresistible target meets the unachievable objective: what have 8 years of GSPC implementation taught us about target setting and achievable objectives? Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 166: 250–260
  • Paton, A. (2009). Biodiversity informatics and the plant conservation baseline. Trends in Plant Science 14: 629-637.
  • Paton, A.J., Brummitt, N., Govaerts, R., Harman, K. Hinchcliffe, S., Allkin, R. & NicLughadha, E. (2008). Towards Target 1 Of The Global Strategy For Plant Conservation: A Working List Of All Known Plant Species – Progress and Prospects. Taxon 57: 602–611.

Project partners and collaborators

AustraliaCentre for Plant Diversity Research, Canberra

Jardim Botanico, Rio de Janeiro


Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Kew

Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley


New York Botanical Garden

Harvard University

Missouri Botanical Garden


Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)

Global Names Architecture Partnership

Global Partnership for Plant Conservation

International Legume Database and Information Service (ILDIS)

International Compositae Alliance- Global Compositae Checklist

Species 2000

Project funders


Kew Foundation


Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


EU FP 7 4D4 life projec