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      Controlling the taxonomic variable: Taxonomic concept resolution for a southeastern United States herbarium portal

      Research Ideas and Outcomes
      Pensoft Publishers

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          The taxonomic name resolution service: an online tool for automated standardization of plant names

          Background The digitization of biodiversity data is leading to the widespread application of taxon names that are superfluous, ambiguous or incorrect, resulting in mismatched records and inflated species numbers. The ultimate consequences of misspelled names and bad taxonomy are erroneous scientific conclusions and faulty policy decisions. The lack of tools for correcting this ‘names problem’ has become a fundamental obstacle to integrating disparate data sources and advancing the progress of biodiversity science. Results The TNRS, or Taxonomic Name Resolution Service, is an online application for automated and user-supervised standardization of plant scientific names. The TNRS builds upon and extends existing open-source applications for name parsing and fuzzy matching. Names are standardized against multiple reference taxonomies, including the Missouri Botanical Garden's Tropicos database. Capable of processing thousands of names in a single operation, the TNRS parses and corrects misspelled names and authorities, standardizes variant spellings, and converts nomenclatural synonyms to accepted names. Family names can be included to increase match accuracy and resolve many types of homonyms. Partial matching of higher taxa combined with extraction of annotations, accession numbers and morphospecies allows the TNRS to standardize taxonomy across a broad range of active and legacy datasets. Conclusions We show how the TNRS can resolve many forms of taxonomic semantic heterogeneity, correct spelling errors and eliminate spurious names. As a result, the TNRS can aid the integration of disparate biological datasets. Although the TNRS was developed to aid in standardizing plant names, its underlying algorithms and design can be extended to all organisms and nomenclatural codes. The TNRS is accessible via a web interface at http://tnrs.iplantcollaborative.org/ and as a RESTful web service and application programming interface. Source code is available at https://github.com/iPlantCollaborativeOpenSource/TNRS/.
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            Error cascades in the biological sciences: the unwanted consequences of using bad taxonomy in ecology.

            Why do ecologists seem to underestimate the consequences of using bad taxonomy? Is it because the consequences of doing so have not been yet scrutinized well enough? Is it because these consequences are irrelevant? In this paper I examine and discuss these questions, focusing on the fact that because ecological works provide baseline information for many other biological disciplines, they play a key role in spreading and magnifying the abundance of a variety of conceptual and methodological errors. Although overlooked and underestimated, this cascade-like process originates from trivial taxonomical problems that affect hypotheses and ideas, but it soon shifts into a profound practical problem affecting our knowledge about nature, as well as the ecosystem structure and functioning and the efficiency of human health care programs. In order to improve the intercommunication among disciplines, I propose a set of specific requirements that peer reviewed journals should request from all authors, and I also advocate for urgent institutional and financial support directed at reinvigorating the formation of scientific collections that integrate taxonomy and ecology.
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              Molecular phylogeny of the Magnoliaceae: the biogeography of tropical and temperate disjunctions.

              The boreotropical flora concept suggests that relictual tropical disjunctions between Asia and the Americas are a result of the expansion of the circumboreal tropical flora from the middle to the close of the Eocene. Subsequently, temperate species diverged at high latitudes and migrated to other continents. To test this concept, we conducted a molecular phylogenetic analysis (using cpDNA) of the Magnoliaceae, a former boreotropical element that currently contains both tropical and temperate disjuncts. Divergence times of the clades were estimated using sequences of matK and two intergenic regions consisting of psbA-trnH and atpB-rbcL. Results indicate the tropical American section Talauma branched first, followed by the tropical Asian clade and the West Indies clade. Within the remaining taxa, two temperate disjunctions were formed. Assuming the temperate disjunction of Magnolia acuminata and Asian relatives occurred 25 mya (late Oligocene; based on seed fossil records), section Talauma diverged 42 mya (mid-Eocene), and tropical Asian and the West Indies clades 36 mya (late Eocene). These events correlate with cooling temperatures during the middle to late Eocene and probably caused the tropical disjunctions.
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                10.3897/rio.2.e10610

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