Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (7): 22355.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022355

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A current and historical situation report of Chinese plant taxonomists

Cheng Du1,*(), Jun Liu2, Su Liu1, Jinshuang Ma3   

  1. 1. Eastern China Conservation Centre for Wild Endangered Plant Resources, Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden, Shanghai 201602
    2. Zhejiang University Library, Hangzhou 310027
    3. China National Botanical Garden (North Garden), Beijing 100093
  • Received:2022-06-29 Accepted:2022-07-14 Online:2022-07-20 Published:2022-07-22
  • Contact: Cheng Du


Aims: Within the north temperate zone, China has the richest and most diverse national flora, which has attracted the interest of western plant taxonomists since the 17th century. However, Chinese plant taxonomists had not started studying their own national flora independently until 1916. Since then, the history of their studies can be divided into three main periods, from the founding period before 1949 to the independent completion of national and relatively complete various local floras such as Iconographia Cormophytorum Sinicorum and Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae, and the completion of the English version of the National Flora of China by Sino-foreign cooperation after 1949, and then to the new generation of scholars in the 21st century who updated the Catalogue of Life China every year and began to lead the international plant taxonomy research work. Despite the flourishing appearance in past years, there are many problems in the current training of students in the plant taxonomy field, such as irrelevant systematic studies of taxonomic treatments as well as an insufficient approach to molecular evidence. Advice needs to be provided based on precise statistics.
Methods: By systematically sorting out the detailed information of 3,154 plant taxonomists, excluding scholars who have not described novel plant species in over 10 years and who described only one species, a list of “active” scholars was generated. Author information from Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae, Flora of China, Chinese local floras, Flora of Pan-Himalaya and Catalogue of Life China (Plants) were also utilized, as well as a list of researchers of plant families in China.
Results: There is superficial prosperity in the number of Chinese plant taxonomists, many of whom described new plant species solely for “utilitarian” purposes. With these factors excluded, the current number of active scholars is roughly the same as that in the late 1970s. In addition, many plant taxonomists are still ignorant of the close relationship between plant systematics and taxonomy and do not pay enough attention to molecular methods.
Conclusion: Based on the historical data and current situation, we present six standards for contemporary taxonomists, encouraging skill analysis using hexagonal radar charts.

Key words: China, plant taxonomists, history, current situation