Researchers have put forth a plan to develop a definitive list of all species found on Earth, the Guardian reports.
It notes different parameters are used across the world to define what makes a species a species. This has led, for instance, to scientific studies suggesting African elephants may represent two species — the forest elephant and the savanna elephant — but to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the International Union for Conservation of Nature only recognizing one African elephant species, the Guardian adds.
This new effort would rely on 10 principles to make its species determinations, as the organizers led by Taxonomy Australia's Kevin Thiele note in PLOS Biology. These principles include a reliance on science free from non-taxonomic considerations, transparent decision-making, and a need for global diversity, among others.
"If realized, an authoritative global species list will be a remarkable achievement, both for global science and as an important part of a package of measures to respond to global challenges including the unfolding extinction crisis," Thiele and his colleagues write. "A global taxonomic list will transcend borders, individual preferences, politics, and history."