Afro-Asian Taxonomic Network Prince of Songkla University Harrison Institute
Taxonomy without frontiers - promoting taxonomic research and training throughout Afro-Asia – Taxonomy without frontiers

Taxonomic Need in Afro-Asia

The Old World tropics and subtropics are home to a rich variety of rare and endemic biodiversity. Unfortunately, much of this biodiversity is threatened with extinction over the coming years (IUCN Red List).

National governments, through the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity), are committed to biodiversity conservation.  However, there are few individuals who can identify the components of the biodiversity and have knowledge of the distribution, ecology, and status of these diverse and threatened taxa.

Taxonomists with their understanding of the diversity of nature and with their field guides, keys, databases, and molecular expertise are uniquely qualified to:

  • identify, describe and document the biodiversity of ecosystems
  • support the work of ecologists, conservationists and molecular biologists
  • advise on priorities for species and site-based conservation initiatives
  • monitor biodiversity loss from the impacts of
    • climate change
    • habitat fragmentation
    • the spread of invasive alien species
    • the spread of disease within biodiversity and from wildlife to man
  • assist with the enforcement of CITES
  • support environmental impact assessments  

However, as the requirement for taxonomic expertise grows in the biodiversity rich tropics, the availability of taxonomists in Europe, North America and elsewhere in the 'West' is declining substantially.

Therefore the Network seeks to counteract the decline in taxonomists in the traditional centres of study by developing a new dynamic group of in-country taxonomic specialists in the Old World tropics. Therefore it aims to:

  • increase the number of well-trained staff in universities and natural history museums familiar with a wide range of taxonomic groups and equipped with new ideas, knowledge and techniques

  • train student taxonomists to MSc and PhD level
  • provide taxonomic training centres in the biodiversity rich tropics with affordable fees and accommodation to train students in (1) tropical field research; (2) academic research to MSc and PhD level; (3) the preparation and publication of scientific research papers; (4) zoological collections management and curation.

The Network will also help to:

  • promote taxonomic libraries and regionally-based depositories for voucher specimens

  • reduce the impediments for taxonomists working in isolation by promoting regional and international collaboration

  • expand the range, scope, and quality of taxonomic research carried out in Africa and Asia

  • provide focal points for governments to access locally generated biodiversity information relevant to the CBD, the support of CITES, and a range of medical programmes (zoonoses).