Biodiv Sci ›› 2016, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (9): 1024-1030.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2016226

Special Issue: 物种概念专题 物种形成与系统进化

• Special Feature: Species Concept • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Comments on species-level taxonomy of plants in China

Qiner Yang*()   

  1. Key Laboratory of Plant Resources Conservation and Sustainable Utilization, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650
  • Online:2016-09-20 Published:2016-10-09
  • Contact: Yang Qiner


Very recently, Professor Deyuan Hong, the editor-in-chief of the ongoing Flora of Pan-Himalaya, put forward a series of proposals (which may be conveniently termed Hong’s Ten Points) on raising rationality in species delimitation, a hotly-debated question in systematic biology [Hong DY (2016) Opinion on raising rationality in species delimitation. Biodiversity Science, 24: 360-361]. The present paper is mainly to expound on some of the points. Even after the Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae and its English version, Flora of China, was published, many species-level taxonomic problems of plants from China still remain to be solved. This situation may be due in part to previous unsatisfactory taxonomic practice and in part to our poor knowledge of taxonomic characters of a large number of plant groups from the country. Indeed, a very important stage in plant taxonomy, the biosystematic phase, was basically missing in China, and even the consolidation or systematic phase (one of the stages in alpha-taxonomy) has not yet been accomplished for some groups. Nowadays, it is inappropriate to emphasize the separation of orthodox and experimental taxonomy, and a multidisciplinary approach needs to be adopted in addressing taxonomic problems. To gain a fuller understanding of plant biodiversity in China, creative monographic work is badly needed, which requires the training of young botanical monographers. Moreover, it is suggested that practicing taxonomists should take extreme caution when employing population concept and statistical methods in their routine work. Finally, it is argued that every effort should be made toward a broader biological species concept although botanists have to accept the pluralism in species concept. To revert to a purely subjective species concept, under the pretext of the existence of the so-called lumpers or splitters in systematic biology, is not correct and must be opposed.

Key words: multidisciplinary approach, species delimitation, species-level taxonomy