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Making Taxonomy Environmentally Relevant: insights into an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory

Thursday 13 June 2013, by Marc Barbier, Philippe Breucker

For several decades taxonomy has been marginalized in academic labs and universities. Today, rising concerns over biodiversity are transforming the discipline’s meanings and creating an unprecedented opportunity for it to be viewed as a crucially relevant field. This article aims to scrutinize how the biodiversity concerns entail new collaboration designs between taxonomists and nature managers and between taxonomists and ecologists. Our key point is that taxonomy’s environmental relevance is not a given: instead, taxonomic data have to be made relevant by taxonomists and their partners when they become involved in specific collaborative and organizational arrangements. The article draws on an empirical study of an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) in a national park in the Southern French Alps. This study included an ethnographic survey combined with scientometric analysis. It was found that the collaboration initiated in the ATBI between taxonomists, ecologists and the park managers was paved with disappointments and reorientations because it partly failed to address the tension between a taxonomic and an ecological approach to the relevance of taxonomic data. While the rise of biodiversity concerns induces an opportunity for taxonomists to render their work visible through new research collaboration arrangements, it might also entail a stronger risk than ever for them to remain mere data providers for nature managers and ecologists interested in ecosystem functioning.

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