The Future of Botanical Monography: Report from an international

The Future of Botanical Monography: Report from an international
Marhold & Stuessy (eds.) and collaborators • Future of Botanical Monography
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
work shop report
The Future of Botanical Monography: Report from an international
workshop, 12–16 March 2012, Smolenice, Slovak Republic
Edited by: Karol Marhold1 & Tod Stuessy2
 1Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 9, 845 23 Bratislava, Slovak Republic; Department of Botany,
Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Benátská 2, 128 01 Praha 2, Czech Republic
 2Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Biodiversity Center, University of Vienna, Rennweg 14, 1030 Vienna, Austria
Correspondence to: Karol Marhold, [email protected]
Written by: Mariam Agababian,3 Donat Agosti,4 Mac H. Alford,5 Ana Crespo,6 Jorge V. Crisci,7
Laurence J. Dorr,8 Zuzana Ferencová,6 David Frodin,9 Dmitry V. Geltman,10 Norbert Kilian,11
H. Peter Linder,12 Lucia G. Lohmann,13 Christoph Oberprieler,14 Lyubomir Penev,15 Gideon F. Smith,16
Wayt Thomas,17 Melissa Tulig,18 Nicholas Turland,19 & Xian-Chun Zhang20
  3Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences, Yerevan, Armenia
 4Plazi, Zinggstrasse 16, 3007 Bern, Switzerland
 5Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi 39406, U.S.A.
 6Departamento de Biología Vegetal II, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
 7División Plantas Vasculares, Museo de la Plata, Paseo del Bosque s/n, 1900 La Plata, Argentina
 8Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20013, U.S.A.
 9Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, U.K.
10 V.L. Komarov Botanical Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Prof. Popov Street 2, St. Petersburg, 197376 Russia
11Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Freie Universität Berlin, Königin-Luise-Straße 6–8,
14195 Berlin, Germany
12Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland
13 Departamento de Botânica, Instituto de Biociencias, Universidade de São Paulo, 05508-090 São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
14Institute of Botany, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstraße 31, 93053 Regensburg, Germany
15Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Pensoft Publishers, Geo Milev Str.
No. 13a, 1111 Sofia, Bulgaria
16Office of the Chief Director: Biosystematics Research and Biodiversity Collections, South African National Biodiversity Institute,
Private Bag X101, Pretoria, 001 South Africa; Acocks Chair, Schweickerdt Herbarium, Department of Botany, University of
Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002 South Africa; Centre for Functional Ecology, Departamento de Ciências de Vida, Universidade de
Coimbra, 3001-455 Coimbra, Portugal
17New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, New York 10458, U.S.A.
18New York Botanical Garden and JSTOR, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, New York 10458, U.S.A.
19Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, Missouri 63166, U.S.A.
20Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
Abstract Monographs are fundamental for progress in systematic botany. They are the vehicles for circumscribing and naming
taxa, determining distributions and ecology, assessing relationships for formal classification, and interpreting long-term and
short-term dimensions of the evolutionary process. Despite their importance, fewer monographs are now being prepared by the
newer generation of systematic botanists, who are understandably involved principally with DNA data and analysis, especially
for answering phylogenetic, biogeographic, and population genetic questions. As monographs provide hypotheses regarding
species boundaries and plant relationships, new insights in many plant groups are urgently needed. Increasing pressures on
biodiversity, especially in tropical and developing regions of the world, emphasize this point. The results from a workshop (with
21 participants) reaffirm the central role that monographs play in systematic botany. But, rather than advocating abbreviated
models for monographic products, we recommend a full presentation of relevant information. Electronic publication offers
numerous means of illustration of taxa, habitats, characters, and statistical and phylogenetic analyses, which previously would
have been prohibitively costly. Open Access and semantically enhanced linked electronic publications provide instant access
to content from anywhere in the world, and at the same time link this content to all underlying data and digital resources used
in the work. Resources in support of monography, especially databases and widely and easily accessible digital literature
and specimens, are now more powerful than ever before, but interfacing and interoperability of databases are much needed.
Priorities for new resources to be developed include an index of type collections and an online global chromosome database.
Funding for sabbaticals for monographers to work uninterrupted on major projects is strongly encouraged. We recommend
that doctoral students be assigned smaller genera, or natural portions of larger ones (subgenera, sections, etc.), to gain the
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Marhold & Stuessy (eds.) and collaborators • Future of Botanical Monography
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
necessary expertise for producing a monograph, including training in a broad array of data collection (e.g., morphology, anatomy,
palynology, cytogenetics, DNA techniques, ecology, biogeography), data analysis (e.g., statistics, phylogenetics, models), and
nomenclature. Training programs, supported by institutes, associations, and agencies, provide means for passing on procedures
and perspectives of challenging botanical monography to the next generation of young systematists.
Keywords classification; internet; monograph; nomenclature; phylogeny; revision; synopsis
ecommended citation: Marhold, K. & Stuessy, T. (eds.) in collaboration with Agababian, M., Agosti, D., Alford, M.H.,
Crespo, A., Crisci, J.V., Dorr, L.J., Ferencová, Z., Frodin, D., Geltman, D.V., Kilian, N., Linder, H.P., Lohmann, L.G.,
Oberprieler, C., Penev, L., Smith, G.F., Thomas, W., Tulig, M., Turland, N. & Zhang, X.-C. 2013. The Future of Botanical
Monography: Report from an international workshop, 12–16 March 2012, Smolenice, Slovak Republic. Taxon 62: 4–20.
Received: 29 Dec. 2012; accepted: 15 Jan. 2013.
Monographs provide the cornerstones for systematic botany.
These significant publications contain the basic statements of
relationships among organisms, often focused at the specific
level. To articulate this goal requires documenting vegetative and
reproductive structures, modes of reproduction, distributions,
ecology, biogeography, and evolution, along with clarification
of correct names and affinities with related taxa (i.e., proposing
a predictive classification). Armed with this information, valuable studies on evolutionary biology, floristics, and conservation
can be completed. For understanding the dynamics of the evolutionary process, information is required on which species are
closely related to each other. In fact, without basic information
on sister-group relationships, it is virtually impossible to understand mechanisms of organic evolution. It is also fundamental
for conservation issues to have precise ideas of morphological
and geographical boundaries of species. Monographs also furnish data for reaching sound decisions about conservation by
circumscribing rare and cryptic species often hidden among
more common ones (Balakrishnan, 2005; Bebber & al., 2010).
Monographers often have the best knowledge to perceive
and circumscribe all the species in the group they study, which
allows them to expertly identify living and preserved specimens of that group. This can be very important in many fields
where accuracy of species identifications is needed. Measures
of species richness, for example, are critical in ecological studies
and assessments of conservation strategies—in these cases, the
accuracy of these measurements is only as reliable as the species identifications upon which they are based (Gotelli, 2004;
Godfray & al., 2007). In the emerging field of DNA-based determination of specimens (i.e., DNA barcoding; e.g., Hebert
& Gregory, 2005), critical identification of reference specimens
by a monographic expert is crucial. Furthermore, modern monographs are not simply a rehash of old taxonomies—an analysis
of monographs in the Flora Neotropica series showed that over
one-quarter of the species treated were described as new by the
author of the monograph (Thomas, 1999, 2005).
The creation in recent years of JSTOR Plant Science and
the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), plus other online
bibliographic repositories, have enhanced and improved monographic research through easier access to previously published
information. This is particularly important in systematics
because we never escape the literature of the past—we continue
to add to it each year. JSTOR has become the principal digital
repository for botanical journals that contain plant taxonomic
information, while the BHL is becoming the main site for digitized versions of books and journals that are no longer covered
by copyright. Efficient and thorough access to published articles and books offers more powerful literature tools for the
completion of contemporary monographs.
Monographers also analyze type specimens to make decisions on taxonomic concepts and proper nomenclature. It is in
the hands of the monographer that the historical and biological
data from type specimens can be evaluated and reinterpreted
for the broader systematics community. As a large investment
in digitization of type specimens of plants has already been
made through the Global Plants Initiative (with JSTOR Plant
Science and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; cf. Smith
& al., 2011, on the African Plants Initiative); it makes sense to
emphasize ways in which monographic studies can use type
specimens more effectively and how results of these studies can
be disseminated more widely by using the Internet.
That electronic publication of monographs is now possible
also opens up new dimensions for inclusion of (and linking
to) photographs of natural habitats, photographs of plants in
their natural setting, illustrations of plants, type (and other)
specimens, data analyses, comparisons, and interpretations.
As digital space is virtually without limit, extensive illustrative materials can be presented to document features of species
and their relationships to each other. It will also be possible to
develop more powerful search or data-mining tools, to allow
improved machine readability of monographs and thus lead to
their more efficient use. Open Access is also an opportunity
for dissemination of content instantaneously to anyone with
Internet connections. These many developments can only result in more informative and rapid communication for users of
monographs, both amateur and professional.
Furthermore, tools now exist to harvest the rich content
of monographs. Various programs from GoldenGate (now a
part of Oracle) allow semi-automatic mark-up of treatments
and their elements for either exporting to databases or creating
semantically enhanced documents. CharaParser (Cui, 2012)
allows discovering and extracting morphological characters
and states in monographic treatments that, if exported into
data matrices, can create new identification keys or can “seed”
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character databases, such as shown by Cui (2012) for the Flora
of North America and Flora of China.
It is possible to recognize three types of monographic publications (Stuessy, 1975, 1993): (1) The synopsis (e.g., Robinson,
1901), whereby information is provided on species as far as
practicable with available resources. This means that perhaps
not all species will be described, all type specimens may not
have been consulted, little ancillary information might be
given, and no phylogenetic analysis is furnished. (2) The revision (e.g., Stuessy, 1978). This covers in comparative fashion
all the necessary perspectives on species limits, distributions,
nomenclature, and affinities, but it is limited in detail of information, particularly involving other types of data (i.e., beyond
morphology and distribution). This type of approach has been
advocated recently as the “foundation monograph” (Wood
& Scotland, 2012). (3) The monograph proper. In addition to
the basic information, this kind of work goes much further and
includes lengthy data analyses, phylogenetic interpretations,
discussions on modes of speciation, ecological and conservation aspects, etc. (e.g., Peralta & al., 2008). A monograph is also
distinct from a Flora in that it is not geographically limited in
scope and it includes substantial amounts of original research.
Over recent decades, particularly in view of the biodiversity crisis worldwide, attention from the systematic community
has been to some extent re-directed toward the importance of
monographic research (Prance, 1985; Hedberg, 1988). This interest continued into the 1990s, now with a strong call for more
innovative and creative approaches to monography (Stuessy,
1993; Hopkins & al., 1998). A recent book has been published
that stresses the importance of botanical monography (Stuessy
& Lack, 2011a). Although this volume does an excellent job
of emphasizing the importance of monography within broad
contexts of our discipline, it does not provide a communitywide statement of specific perspectives and implementations.
This was the task of the recent workshop, the outcomes from
which are reported here.
The focus of the workshop was to assess the future of
botanical monography and to offer recommendations for improvement. Several indicators have revealed that the training
of plant systematists in botanical monography is dropping
precipitously, especially in the developed world (Stuessy
& Lack, 2011b). It is also realized that fewer young systematists are choosing monographs as vehicles of research within
their Ph.D. programs. We are now in the DNA generation, and
young investigators want to train using the newest molecular
techniques and software for analysis. This is where most of the
current jobs are, and young workers have understandably responded accordingly to train for maximization of employment
success. The challenge is to encourage them to have expertise
and fluency with DNA data and analyses, but at the same time
to be able to utilize effectively a wide range of data and make
the nomenclatural decisions necessary for monographic work.
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
If the new generation of workers focuses only on limited sets
of data, the kinds of hypotheses they can tender will be limited,
and how will our field advance into the future?
With generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and under the auspices of the International Association
for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT), a workshop was held 12–16 March
2012 in Smolenice Castle, close to Bratislava, Slovakia, to address challenges facing modern botanical monography. Attending were 21 participants from many different backgrounds,
countries, and expertise, including monographers, molecular
workers, editors, and publishers. The objective was to obtain
a representative group of international experts to offer advice
on different aspects of the monographic challenge.
Four working groups were organized and charged with
discussing the issues and drafting reports on how botanical
monography can be modernized and further implemented.
The groups and participants were: (1) Resources in Support of
Monographic Studies (L.J. Dorr, Melissa Tulig, Nicholas Turland [chair], Xian-Chun Zhang); (2) Scientific Content of Monographs (Mac Alford, Ana Crespo, Zuzana Ferencová, Dmitry
Geltman, Norbert Kilian, Peter Linder [chair]); (3) Training of
Monographers and Production of More Monographs (Mariam
Agababian, Jorge Crisci, David Frodin [chair], Lucia Lohmann,
Christoph Oberprieler); (4) Publication of Monographic Works
(Donat Agosti, Lyubomir Penev, Gideon Smith [chair], Wayt
Thomas). Karol Marhold and Tod Stuessy served as coordinators and facilitators of the meeting, and edited the final report.
Resources that are currently serving us well. — More resources are available to monographers now than ever before;
particularly with the advent of the World Wide Web, access to
resources is available to more people in more countries, especially those with the highest biodiversity (Smith & Figueiredo,
2010). These resources facilitate monographic work, sometimes
greatly so, and the scientific community, including funding
organizations, needs to support existing resources and not take
them for granted.
Arguably the most important resource of all are the specimens, including type specimens, in herbaria and other collections. Quality specimens in adequate numbers representing
the geographic distribution and morphological variation of a
species provide the foundation for a good monograph. Herbaria also constitute resources for the discovery of new taxa
(Bebber & al., 2010; Fontaine, 2012). However, in some cases,
collections are the most threatened resource of all, e.g., some
university herbaria have been “mothballed” or de-accessioned,
while some collections have not been properly conserved and
curated, resulting in deterioration of the specimens and a decrease in the value of the associated information. Continued
conservation and curation of specimens is therefore vital for
accurate and reliable monography.
A similar situation exists with botanical and other scientific libraries. Although a large body of scientific literature is
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now available online in the form of scanned pages from books
and journals (e.g., the Biodiversity Heritage Library, see below),
the majority of the published literature is not yet in digital format and may be accessed only by looking at the actual printed
matter, or by requesting a copy from a library. The continued
support of libraries and trained librarians is therefore essential
to maintaining access to this information. It should also be
mentioned that there is nowadays also a rich body of useful
data available to monographers in online databases.
Funding organizations can also be regarded as important resources for monography. The U.S. National Science Foundation
(NSF), for example, has taken steps to encourage monographic
work through two initiatives: the PEET program (Partnerships
for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy; effectiveness reviewed
in Rodman & Cody, 2003, Agnarsson & Kuntner, 2007) and the
new ARTS program (Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and
Systematics). The EU has supported monographic work indirectly through EDIT (the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy, Sixth Framework Programme project), SYNTHESYS
(Synthesis of Systematic Resources, Seventh Framework Programme project) and ERASMUS (for short research stays for
graduate students at major collections). A detailed account of
funding possibilities is beyond the scope of this paper, as there
are so many funding organizations around the world and great
variation from country to country and year to year in the methods
of their operation. One impediment has been the need to justify
monography in a context of hypothesis-driven research, which
is often required by funding agencies. Our community needs to
learn better how to frame our monographic projects to be more
competitive in such fiscally challenging arenas.
A considerable range of resources is now available to
monographers. Several are listed below; further details appear in Appendix 1.
Taxonomy, floristics, collections, phylogeny,
gene sequences
• Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF):
• Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families:
• The Plant List:
• Species 2000/Catalogue of Life:
• Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN)
Taxonomy for Plants:
• Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: http://www.mobot
• GenBank:
• Index Herbariorum:
• Specimen databases (online) of individual herbaria
• International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi,
and plants (ICN, Melbourne Code; McNeill & al.,
• International Plant Names Index (IPNI): http://www
• Tropicos:
• Index Nominum Genericorum (ING): http://botany
• Indices Nominum Supragenericorum Plantarum
• Index Hepaticarum:
• Index Nominum Algarum:
• Index Fungorum:
• MycoBank:
• Fungal Names,
• Fossilium Catalogus II: Plantae (Pars 1–110, 1913–
2010; only in print)
• Results of Algal, Fungal, and Plant Nomenclature
Proposals, a database of proposals to conserve and/or
reject names under the Code: http://www.ars-grin
• Books on names and their types (e.g., Order out of
Chaos [Jarvis, 2007]:
• Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL): http://www
• JSTOR, a digital archive of scholarly journals (not
limited to botany): (subscription
• WorldCat:
• Gallica (through Bibliothèque Nationale de France):
• Biblioteca Digital del Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid:
• Library catalogues (online) of major botanical and
natural history institutions
• Botanico-Periodicum-Huntianum, ed. 2 (BPH-2;
Bridson & al., 2004:
• Guide to the plant species descriptions published in seed
lists from Botanic Gardens for the period 1800–1900:
• Taxonomic Literature, ed. 2 (TL-2; Stafleu & Cowan,
1976–1988; Stafleu & Mennega, 1992–2000; Dorr
& Nicolson, 2008–2009):
• Kew Bibliographic Databases: (registration may be needed for full
accessibility; parts are no longer being added to)
• Thomson Reuters Scientific (BIOSIS, SCI, Web of
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• Botany Subject Index (U.S. Department of Agriculture
Library, 1958; only in print)
• Auxilium ad Botanicorum Graphicem: http://www
• Botanical Latin (4th edition in English: Stearn, 1992;
edition in Spanish: Stearn, 2006)
• Latin words by William Whitaker: http://archives.nd
• Google Language Tools:
Geography (and georeferencing)
• Google Earth and Google Maps:
.com/earth/index.html and
• MapCarta:
• Online world gazetteers (e.g., Geonames, http://www; Fuzzy Gazetteer, http://isodp.hof-uni
• Regional gazetteers and botanical atlases (some
actively or passively online)
• WorldClim (global climate layers):
• Guide to Best Practices for Georeferencing (Chapman
& Wieczorek, 2006—through GBIF, http://www.gbif
• Digitised topographic maps. Good collections include
the National Library of Australia and Perry-Castañeda
Map Library (University of Texas, Austin)
Ways in which existing resources could be made even
more useful and powerful. — There was a strong feeling
among the Workshop participants that online data need to
have open access, although it was understood that financial
realities do not always allow this. A rich array of links and
enhancements can be made with open access data but not
when access is restricted. JSTOR, including JSTOR Plant Science, for example, could be improved with more open access,
rather than the subscription service that is currently used.
There seems to be a lack of awareness of JSTOR Plant Science
and/or a reluctance to use it, perhaps because a subscription
is required. In addition, it is unrealistic to assume that North
American and European botanical institutions can subsidize
subscriptions for institutions in developing countries as almost all botanical institutions face financial constraints. One
possibility is to encourage authors to include costs for open
access publication in grant proposals, as it facilitates dissemination of knowledge.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) and similar resources should continue to scan books and journals, especially
rare ones. BHL could be enhanced if it contained more metadata, e.g., authors and publication date, which may be different
for various parts of a book or journal volume. This might be
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
achieved by encouraging BHL to fully utilize the data in TL-2.
Keyword searching on content, as in Google Books (http://, would also be useful. Currently it is possible to search for scientific names through uBio’s TaxonFinder,
a taxonomic name recognition algorithm, although this is based
on uncorrected text automatically generated from optical character recognition (OCR) programs and is of variable quality for
each scanned book. There are, however, limits to the utility of
data in older publications, e.g., descriptions and geographic
distributions are not necessarily accurate for species circumscriptions, identifications, and the meaning of terminology may
well have changed over the years.
Better sharing of specimen data and specimen annotations would benefit everyone, and efforts to digitize herbarium
specimens and make images freely available online should be
supported. A good model for co-operative capture of shared
data is that of libraries (e.g., WorldCat, provided by the Online
Computer Library Center [OCLC] see above). We are as yet nowhere near digitizing significant percentages of major herbaria,
although PE (Beijing) has digitized ca. 70% of its ca. 2.5 million
specimens so far, with ca. 600,000 images already freely available online in the Chinese Virtual Herbarium (http://www.cvh and all types (ca. 17,000 specimens) to be made available soon; large portions of other Chinese herbaria, e.g., KUN
are available for study via this gateway as well. Paris (P) is also
currently scanning holdings from their general herbarium at a
rapid rate. Another activity, the Filtered-Push project, allows
sharing of annotations and transcriptions of herbarium labels
(Dou & al., 2011), hence mobilizing contributors from various
locations and avoiding duplication of work.
GBIF could be improved if it included an indication of
which specimens have been cited in a monograph, i.e., which
specimens have been checked by whom. Papers to be added
automatically to GBIF in the future will contain such data.
Some resources, e.g., ING and INSupraG, often depend
on one or a few people, who eventually retire, after which the
databases become out-of-date or new data are of lesser quality.
Perhaps IAPT could help identify such “dying” databases and
save them by providing a home or funding for their maintenance and expansion. Also, inasmuch as ING covers all plant
(and algal and fungal) groups treated by the Code, it cannot be
folded easily into any of the existing projects that cover narrower nomenclatural subsets of organisms.
The index of plant fossils, Fossilium Catalogus II: Plantae, could be digitized and made available online as an index
similar to IPNI.
Language issues: collaboration between people from different countries and translation tools may help reduce the tendency of some authors to ignore relevant literature in languages
not their own. Online translators such as Google Language
Tools are often crude, but can still enable a text to be understood, and they are improving all the time. Google now includes
Latin among the languages that can be translated. If the quality
of the translation improves, this could be useful in maintaining access to botanical literature written at a time when Latin
was the international language of science (whereas it is now
understood by rather few).
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Better linking or integration of databases should be pursued,
e.g., between IPNI and Tropicos, between Index Herbariorum
and TL-2. Some databases, e.g., ING and Indices Nominum
Supragenericorum Plantarum Vascularium, could even be incorporated into others, e.g., IPNI. Actions legislated by the Code,
e.g., conserved or rejected names or names in suppressed works,
could be embedded in major nomenclatural databases (such as is
already being done by Tropicos). Linking of molecular datasets
to names and other information, e.g., voucher specimens for
sequences deposited in GenBank, would be desirable. This applies also to datasets for subjects other than DNA, e.g., pollen,
chromosomes, and images. Indeed, a seamless search capability
of authenticated image data across institutions, so as not to have
to search each institution separately, would be highly desirable.
The “top three” new resources. — The Workshop participants examined several suggestions for new resources, with
the three following the most favoured:
(1) An index of type designations, specifically designations
of lectotypes, neotypes, and epitypes. This is currently a major
gap in the resources available to monographers. This could
be a project initiated by, and operated under the auspices of,
IAPT. Voluntary registration of typification could be achieved
in collaboration with major institutions and publishers. Relevant
literature (Floras, revisions, monographs) could be scanned for
typification. Content could also be provided by others, moderated by the project manager. One person, already with a basic
knowledge of nomenclature and then suitably trained, could
function as a project manager and achieve much even after only
one year working full time. The data model and method of
operation could draw from the Linnaean Plant Name Typification Project (
projects/linnaean-typification/index.html) and repositories such
as MycoBank that already register nomenclatural data. Linking
or integration with existing nomenclatural databases from the
very start of the project would be desirable. The project should
not seek specialists to carry out new typification (which would
be extremely labour intensive), but should seek existing typification published in the literature, which in the absence of any
index are currently difficult, sometimes extremely so, to find.
(2) An integrated global chromosome database. Currently available electronic resources on chromosome number
reports are in several separate datasets. Complete (or nearly
complete) data are available only for individual countries, e.g.,
Italy (, Poland (http://, or Slovakia
(, or for some families, e.g.,
Asteraceae (
G0000003asteraceae_e), or genera, e.g., Cardamine (http://; Kučera & al., 2005), or Hieracium
.html). The only global dataset, Index of Plant Chromosome
Numbers (IPCN, currently part of the Tropicos database, http://, does not cover older (pre1979) chromosome data, which are in printed matter only.
IPCN also currently does not list localities of the origin of
the analysed material, which seriously limits the use of data
deposited in this database. For the future, it would be desirable
to embed raw data, images, etc. (although copyright issues may
apply) so that chromosome numbers could be verified from
the database, provide locality data, and include a mechanism
for users to provide feedback and correct errors. Chromosome
numbers should not only be included but also ploidy level, as
this is very important evolutionarily (albeit ascertaining ploidy
level can sometimes be difficult). It is particularly frustrating to
attempt to draw conclusions from molecular data if the ploidy
levels of the organisms being analysed are unknown. IAPT is
currently taking over responsibility for the IPCN, and the extent
of information recorded for each chromosome number report
newly included in the database will be enhanced. Nevertheless, a large online database that would contain all published
chromosome number reports is urgently needed.
(3) One of the most elusive resources, not listed above, is
time. Many specialists are engaged in administration, applying for grants, curatorial work, teaching, and reviewing grant
proposals and manuscripts, all of which leave little time for
monographic work. When all data needed for a monograph have
finally been gathered together, writing could be made possible
by providing a commitment-free sabbatical. Such would need
to be funded—and any overall program would require a large
and sustainable source of money. Perhaps it could be achieved
with a “corporate responsibility” scheme, whereby a global
network of botanical institutions could contribute annually to
support a fund for monographers to finish specific projects.
This would have the additional benefit of helping to unify the
systematic botany community.
Additional new resources that would significantly help
monographic work. — We need to convince heads of institutions
of the value of producing monographs (with a means of measuring progress) versus simply measuring numbers of papers published and impact factors of the journals in which they appear.
Direct funding for monographic projects is laudable, but the
large amounts of money needed would be beyond the budget of
associations such as IAPT. It might be more appropriate to seek
funding from large funding bodies such as NSF or the EU. Funding for longer-duration projects is needed; indeed “short-termism” and monography are incompatible. Perhaps the call by the
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for “an online flora
of all known plants”, the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
(GSPC) Target 1 for 2020, could be used to stimulate funding
for monography both before and beyond 2020. Notably and understandably, however, Target 1 of the GSPC does not require
revisionary taxonomy to achieve an online world Flora by 2020;
compilation primarily from existing resources for the time being must be sufficient. The EU-funded Pro-iBiosphere project,
which has the goal of developing a whitepaper on the feasibility of building a biodiversity knowledge management system
through production of Floras and Faunas, might be broadened
to include also the preparation of monographs.
It would be useful to have automated devices for ascertaining the itineraries and localities for major historical (especially
19th-century) collectors (e.g., Humboldt and Bonpland, Wallich, Spruce, Baron, Clarke, Rock; cf. Bebber & al., 2012). This
could involve digitizing field books and mapping locations
where the collectors and their collaborators were active. This
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would create a valuable resource for locating type specimens.
Similarly, collector guides with details of itineraries tied to
Flora projects are useful, and many of their data have been
captured and incorporated into JSTOR through the work of
the Botanical Collectors Project at the Natural History Museum (London) and other avenues. Examples include SteenisKruseman (1950) for Flora Malesiana, Dorr (1997) for Flore
de Madagascar et des Comores, and Polhill & Polhill (in prep.)
for Flora of Tropical East Africa.
Nowadays very few protologues exist that cannot be found,
either as electronic images in portals such as BHL or as printed
matter in a library. In the latter case, online library catalogues
enable us to find which libraries hold the relevant publication.
Literature in languages that do not use the Roman alphabet,
e.g., Chinese and Russian, are more problematic. Initiatives
such as BHL-China ( are filling the
gaps in what can be readily located. The copious Russian botanical literature could be placed online together with a comprehensive transcribed index, and the text translated as needed
using translation tools. (The authors of TL-2 acknowledged
that they did not treat adequately literature published in Cyrillic.) A lot of literature sources covering the area of the former
Soviet Union are already available online created by Alexey
B. Shipunov: Fundamental’naya elektronnaya biblioteka “Flora
i fauna” (Basic electronic library “Flora and fauna”, http:// In general, searching in the Roman alphabet for titles transcribed from other
alphabets or ideographs can be problematic, as systems of
transcription differ. The search functions of digital libraries
and library catalogues could therefore be enhanced so that
publications could be searched for in, e.g., English as well as
their original language using non-Roman text or ideographs.
An “index of monographers”, i.e., who is working on which
groups, and of monographs and revisions, would be useful so
as to inventory current taxonomic research and reveal underresearched groups, which could then be listed so as to provide
incentives for people to monograph particular groups. Some
of these data exist in the online membership list of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, or the Index Herbariorum
online, but many entries are out-of-date, and it is not obvious
how recently records were updated (data are provided voluntarily by the specialists themselves, not proactively sought by
the indices). In populating such an index, however, there is a
danger of “posturing”, which can reduce quality of the data or
discourage much needed work.
Bibliographies for monographs, and for legacy, or “historical” literature on biodiversity as a whole, are one of the most
difficult tasks to solve on the way to the world of semantically
linked data. The difficulties are connected in part by the lack
of commonly accepted standard for bibliographic referencing.
There are several styles used for that (depending mostly by the
established tradition of the different publishers, journals and
societies). Several extensive bibliographies based on taxa or
subjects exist and are even digitized (e.g., the systematic botany
bibliography TL-2, now made available online by the Smithsonian Institution). Nonetheless, digitization, although improving accessibility, does not necessarily mean easy download
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
and handling of reconciled and unambiguous references. For
example, the world’s richest source of digitized literature, the
Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), does not maintain an
extensive thesaurus of article-level metadata, and therefore
does not allow searching for article titles or authors in journals. Projects like Cite­bank, BioStor and, recently, BoL (see
below) are addressing this issue. At the same time, most of the
recently published biodiversity literature is properly retrieved
and indexed by large international bibliographical platforms,
such as BIOSIS/SCI, CrossRef, PubMed and Mendeley.
One more attempt to solve the problem with indexing and
disambiguation of the biodiversity literature, including the historical, called Bibliography of Life (BoL), is being developed
by the EU-funded project ViBRANT (; see also
King & al., 2011) as a stand-alone application, developed to
help scientists to quickly search for, store, find and download
bibliographic references. BoL consists of two modules, RefBank (reference store) and ReFinder (reference finder). BoL
is assisting authors in finding references in external trusted
databases, known as content-rich sources for biodiversity references. Databases to be queried and used for searching are
CrossRef, PubMed, Mendeley, CiteBank, BioStor, Scratchpads
Biblio Module, Pensoft’s reference database, and others. A
quite interesting feature of BoL will be a module that automatically extracts reference lists from biodiversity papers published
in open access and stores these in the RefBank. Such a workflow has been elaborated and is routinely implemented between
RefBank and Pensoft’s online journals.
Field work is, of course, irreplaceable to monographic
studies, but it is becoming rather problematic for some monographers to conduct in countries not their own, with difficulty
of obtaining permits, exporting duplicate sets of specimens,
and subsequent access to the collected specimens. Unfortunately, at least some of these problems were precipitated in the
past by less than desirable conduct by visiting scientists (Smith
& Figueiredo, 2011). Online, collaborative monographs, with
contributors conducting field work in their own countries, may
help circumvent such barriers. An “index of collecting permits”
would also be useful. Contact information for obtaining permits for different countries could be provided and kept up to
date, e.g., whether a country’s permit systems are centralized
or decentralized, and what are the requirements for applying
for a permit. This could be facilitated by the establishment
of national focal points under the Convention on Biological
Diversity (1992), which are envisioned as contact-points for
researchers planning fieldwork in a foreign country.
Biological monographs are systematic and biological
treatments of all the species of a given group and, therefore,
are often substantial. In general, a monograph proper should
contain the following information concerning included taxa
(e.g., in Flora Neotropica Monographs or Systematic Botany
Monographs; Thomas & Thiers, 2011):
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Marhold & Stuessy (eds.) and collaborators • Future of Botanical Monography
• Accepted name and synonymy
• Well-defined circumscription and description
• Diagnostic characters distinguishing that taxon from
• Means (e.g., keys, images, and illustrations) with
which to identify taxa
• Specimen data of collections examined and identified
by the author
• Hypotheses of relationships of the studied group to
related groups, and among species within the studied
• Information on overall distribution and ecology
• Known uses, common names, and conservation status
(including Red List status recommendation)
Unlike a synopsis or revision, a monograph thoroughly
addresses all aspects of the taxon’s history and biology and
integrates research on the specific units into a narrative that
not only emphasizes the taxon’s units but also their typification,
evolution and historical relationships, characteristic features,
distributions, and ecological and physiological parameters.
Monographs are commonly divided into two major parts:
the general information and the specific information. The specific information is usually about species, although other taxa,
such as genera (e.g., Genera Palmarum, Dransfield & al., 2008;
Genera Graminum, Clayton & Renvoize, 1986), may also be
the minimal monographic units.
General information. — The general part of a monograph
usually includes a number of headings, such as the following:
• Introduction
• Taxonomic history
• Morphology and anatomy
• Reproductive biology
• Ecology and habitat
• Biogeography
• Conservation status
• Systematic position and phylogenetic relationships
The introduction indicates general aspects of the group, its
systematic position, and why the group is considered natural.
This is followed by a detailed taxonomic history, which is essential for understanding the current application of names and
circumscriptions of taxa and makes the reader aware of problems that will be clarified later in the monograph. The history
usually addresses a timeline of collectors and collections, how
concepts of taxa have changed, and what taxonomic problems
need solution.
Following the introduction and taxonomic history, the
ideal monograph includes a thorough section on materials and
methods. The monograph should address which herbarium
specimens were studied, when and where field work was undertaken, where vouchers, photos, and/or seeds are deposited,
where plants exist in cultivation, justification for the selection of characters and coding for analyses of species delimitation and inference of relationships, where measurements were
taken (herbarium specimens vs. live plants), and how measurements were obtained (including sample size and whether taken
randomly, from smallest and largest, or other). The methods
section should also include explicit techniques for obtaining
structural or DNA data, sources of terminology, computer software (e.g., used for statistics, phylogenetic inference, maps),
and any sources of secondary data. Associated with methods
are the taxon concepts. The monograph should explicitly state
the concept used for the units and how that concept is applied
(e.g., Balakrishnan, 2005). For example, a researcher should
establish how the experimental evidence supports the recognition and circumscription of taxa presented, e.g., reproductive
data or inference of isolation for the Biological Species Concept
(Mayr, 1942) or diagnostic character states or combinations for
the Phylogenetic Species Concept (Nixon & Wheeler, 1990;
Davis & Nixon, 1992).
Descriptions of the taxa and sources of data for species
delimitation and phylogenetic inference are often based on
character analysis. A character analysis section describes the
morphology and anatomy of the organisms, often and desirably
augmented with illustrations. This section is usually extensive
and describes everything from habit and phyllotaxy to pollen
and embryo morphology. It permits the author to discuss variation within characters and explain the significance of distinctive features. In woody plants, it is common to include a review
of wood anatomy, in addition to anatomical studies of other
parts, such as leaves, indumentum, or floral parts. Taxonomic
and functional significance of the characters is elaborated, and
experimental evidence for the utility of certain data may be
presented, such as from common garden experiments (e.g.,
Clausen & al., 1940). A monographer is at a distinct advantage in describing the characters, because variation is observed
in the context of related taxa. These data from morphology,
anatomy, karyology, and DNA can often be easily structured in
tables and are particularly amenable to presentation in digital
databases (and described using the SDD format), which can
easily be downloaded and used for other studies, or in e-publications linked to the external database. If the data are stored
as electronic files available on the Internet, links should be as
robust, widely-used, and as permanent as possible (e.g., GBIF,
Morphobank, Morphbank, GenBank/EMBL/DDBJ, TreeBase).
This emphasizes one advantage of electronic publication of
monographs, as these links are easy to implement. Refer to
modes of publication below (Part Four).
Analyses of the data are presented in sections on phylogeny
and character evolution, biogeography, and speciation. Although
historically monographs have been descriptive, with minimal
discussion of the evolutionary history of the group being treated,
more recent monographs have included sections on phylogeny
(e.g., Farjon & Styles, 1997; Delprete, 1999; Alford, 2008). This
synthesis is to be strongly encouraged. The relationships of
the taxa are inferred and interpreted, sometimes followed by
an infra-group classification that reflects these relationships.
Occasionally, the analyses may indicate the presence of cryptic
species. The phylogeny is used to examine character evolution
and may be used in conjunction with statistical tools to introduce, support, or refute hypotheses about diversity, ecological
or functional properties, or other patterns. Augmented with
geographical and fossil data, the phylogeny may also be used to
infer broader scale biogeographical patterns, timing of historical
events, and patterns of diversification.
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With a thorough dataset from phylogeny, karyology, and
reproductive experiments, a section on speciation can elaborate
on inferred isolation mechanisms, spatial speciation modes
(allopatric/sympatric), and polyploid speciation. Finally, the
general section ends with the conservation status of the group,
highlighting rare species, important habitats, and potential areas for conservation. With the establishment of the Convention
on Biological Diversity (1992), the link between conservation
of species diversity and systematics has become clearer. The
monographer is usually the one to notice, identify, describe, and
map rare species, and can provide the most accurate assessment
of each species’ conservation status (e.g., Maas & al., 1992).
Specific information. — The heart of the monograph is the
treatment of species. If a family is being treated, the treatment
starts with a family nomenclature, a detailed morphological
description, and a key to the genera. Each generic treatment
follows the same pattern, with a key to species. Each species
treatment should include:
• Nomenclature and typification for each included name
• A detailed morphological description
• Notes on geographical distribution (usually with
a map)
• Notes on habitats and phenology
• Notes on conservation status, local names, uses,
phylogenetic relationships, and diagnostic characters,
depending upon the group
• Illustrations (line drawings or photographs)
• A list of specimens examined
The specific part of the monograph first clarifies the nomenclature of the unit of study, often the genus, and provides
a thorough description. Identification tools are presented for
determining the specific units, often the species, or groups
of specific units. If there are groups, a formal infrageneric
classification may be presented and provided with diagnoses
or synopses, or species may be arranged by informal groups.
Identification is typically done by means of dichotomous keys,
although synoptic keys, multi-access (interactive) keys (Dallwitz, 1980; Dallwitz & al., 2000), barcoding (Hebert & al.,
2003; Kress & al., 2005), Leaf-Snap (Cope & al., 2012), and
other futuristic rapid identification methods are now augmenting this section. If barcoding, Leaf-Snap, or other methods are
used, the monographer should indicate the degree of sampling
and effectiveness of the tools and which vouchers were verified.
The special part continues with treatments of the specific
units. Each unit is named; the typification, including that of
synonyms, is thorough and precise, and nomenclatural decisions and judgments are briefly noted and clearly justified. Ideally, photographs or links to type specimens and protologues,
as well as LSIDs (Life Science Identifiers, unique identification
numbers; Clark & al., 2004) will be provided. Where common
names are used, they should be reported, including language
and country (or region), and their source indicated (e.g., specimen label, collector’s notes, etc.). If common names do not exist
their creation may be justified.
Each minimal monographic unit is then thoroughly described. Sometimes descriptive information that applies to
the whole group is not repeated for each of the units, but that
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
unfortunately makes information easier to take out-of-context.
If descriptive data are also provided in digital format (e.g.,
DELTA), the data can be more concise in the text but can be
accessed digitally in exhaustive form for comparisons across
larger groups or for easily generating multi-access keys. Sampling for the descriptions should be explicit in the Methods section, or explicit notes on small sample sizes should be given for
those based on a subset of specimens examined (e.g., anatomy,
floral dissections, seeds, secondary metabolites, reagent reactions). After each specific unit, notes should justify delimitation
of the taxon and describe variation in the taxon (or subunits).
Diagnostic features are useful here, as well as information
highlighting differences between the taxon and similar taxa.
Illustrations are especially useful, especially for taxonomically
important characters, although analytical line drawings can be
costly. Inclusion of, and links to, photographs (e.g., Morphbank)
or citations of illustrations are also useful.
Following the nomenclature, description, and notes about
the specific units, a monograph usually includes a section on
exsiccatae and specimen data, as monographs are fundamentally based on specimens, which are subject to future scientific inquiry as vouchers. The original specimen (label) data
should be preserved, but locality information should also be
modernized, giving current names of locality, latitude/longitude (where possible), elevation, and other data. A commonly
used approach is to use square brackets to indicate which data
are interpretations of the original label data. Databases of this
information should be made available in standard format (e.g.,
Darwin Core, TDWG standards) to facilitate exchange with
existing and contemplated herbarium databases. A section on
distributional data usually summarizes the details of the specimen data and explains differences from previously published
maps or reports range extensions. Data may be plotted on standard political maps or on maps with relevant environmental
parameters (e.g., soils, precipitation, elevation) as background.
The latter is likely to stimulate additional ecological research
or to draw attention to areas for further exploration. Habitats
(autecology) are described, based on critical evaluation of habitat notes on specimens, vegetation observations, and primary
field work. Interactions with pollinators, herbivores, fruit/seed
dispersers, and other organismal interactions are noted for the
specific units. These data are commonly integrated into the
general sections on biogeography and speciation.
Phenological data should be reported and should be linked
to presumed triggers, sometimes at a regional level. Although
rarely given, timing of fruiting and release of seeds, age at
first flowering, and shifts in growth form with flowering are
also important ecological data. Chromosome counts or other
cytological data (e.g., karyotype analysis, DNA content from
flow cytometry) should be given, if possible. Given the small
sampling in most cases, the availability of vouchers, correctness of determination, and evaluation of contradictory reports
are critical.
The economic importance, cultivation notes, and conservation notes conclude each treatment of a specific unit. Economic
importance includes poisons and useful secondary compounds,
use of secondary metabolites, weeds and invasives, as well as
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TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
the obvious uses for food, fiber, or wood. Cultivation notes include information about germination (e.g., scarification, smoke
treatment, recalcitrance), culturing and preservation (in the
case of fungi), growth rates under different environmental parameters, and history of cultivation.
Conservation notes are strongly encouraged, as monographs represent one of the few broad-scale, supra-national
critical studies (Kirschner & Kaplan, 2002). Author(s) should
suggest a red list status, and if the unit is threatened, information about ex situ conservation, in situ conservation, seedbanks,
and genetic resource collections should be provided if available.
The monograph ends with a list of excluded names, either
transferred to other groups or misapplied (if not allowed under
the specific unit treatments by the editors), an index to names,
and literature cited.
With the increased development of online literature and
supplements, the future of monographs is promising. Text can
highlight the synthetic aspects of systematic studies, primary
literature and specimen images for nomenclature can be readily accessed and compared, and large datasets (photo albums,
characters, data matrices, localities, examined specimens) can
be efficiently downloaded, analyzed, modified, and used in
other studies.
evolution of biological diversity, they are also driving students
towards hypothesis-driven and experimental research at the
expense of more descriptive (but still hypothesis-supported)
areas of systematics, including the preparation of taxonomic
revisions and monographs. In addition, increasing use of “scientometrics” by administrators (including journal impact factors and the “Hirsch index”) has led to greater pressure for
frequent publication of results in high-impact journals, making it difficult for aspiring and established monographers to
see themselves as competitive in the early- and later-career
jobs market. As a result, research projects strictly focused on
monographs have become less attractive in any career stage.
Perceptions of a “skills gap”, therefore, have now arisen,
with calls for action to redress this situation. We believe that
one response would be through the orientation of education
and training of students in such a way that, along with normal
preparation, a broader view of the sciences is imparted and,
hence, a place for monography may more clearly be perceived.
Brief instruction and subsequent employment of parataxonomists, especially in countries with megadiverse floras, as well
as elsewhere, may provide a partial solution (e.g., Basset & al.,
2000; Fontaine & al., 2012) to the skills deficit, but training of
a new generation of professionals with monographic skills is
obviously still very much needed.
A change in the way that we prepare monographs is clearly
recommended, and there are many ways in which this can be
accomplished (Fig. 1). In particular, we need to produce treatments of a broader scope, particularly so that detailed information on the phylogenetic, ecological, evolutionary, and biogeographical history of organisms can also be included. Products
should also be capable of translation into different formats for
use or dissemination. To bring that about, we need to change
how we train monographers, so that students are also engaged
at unravelling the evolutionary history of their focal taxa in
such a way that the monograph itself becomes the foundation of
Enhancing attractiveness of monographic research. —
During the past two decades, we have seen great improvements in a variety of tools and methodologies associated with
molecular phylogenetics, phylogeography, and population genetics, as well as various uses of phylogenies for studies of
morphological evolution, diversification, biogeography, and
comparative biology. While these advances indeed contribute
significantly towards a better understanding of the origin and
Provide easier (more efficient)
access to resources
Other herbarium
Involve more
Hire parataxonomists
Provide more
Goal: To
produce more
Provide more funding ($) for
monographic projects
Field work
Library and herbarium work
Lab work
Reduce time needed to
solve nomenclatural
Database the
specimens examined
Produce more
Increase valuation by
systematic biology
Fig. 1. Different ways to enhance
production of monographs in
systematic botany. While all are
important, the workshop views the
training of more monographers
as particularly vital for the long
Utilize electronic media
Create more
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Marhold & Stuessy (eds.) and collaborators • Future of Botanical Monography
its study but not the exclusive product. Such training will lead
to individuals who are better prepared and in a better position
to pursue a wider range of career opportunities.
Engaging students effectively in such integrated and diverse research programmes requires that professors and lecturers do a better job of demonstrating the importance and
value of organismal biology by changing some of their teaching
practices. In particular, through regular field-based activities,
herbarium identification sessions, and detailed morphological
work, they might be able to demonstrate how a detailed knowledge of the organisms themselves can help formulate interesting biological questions. Indeed, only through a more detailed
understanding of the morphology, ecology, and distribution of
organisms will we be able to understand the key processes that
may have led to the origin and diversification of life as a whole.
Certainly, broader and more diverse research programs will
lead to better-prepared students. Such an approach would also
be useful in modified form in the secondary school curriculum
(Crisci & Katinas, 2011), to get as early a start on developing
interests as possible.
New training programs. — Well-founded undergraduate
and graduate teaching programs are needed. At the former
level, teaching plant systematics should, for example, emphasize the importance of a detailed understanding of biodiversity,
evolutionary relationships, and past biogeographic history over
all areas of organismal and non-organismal biology. Philosophically, the significance of integration and synthesis should
be emphasized, and teaching should address the fascination
of diversity. Such a combination should attract students who
consider it more promising and more rewarding to obtain an
overall picture of the diversity of life around us rather than
doing research in a very particular and fragmented fashion as
is found in many other areas of biological research.
At the graduate level, courses should involve more in-depth
knowledge and the acquisition of a solid training in various
areas including: (a) botanical terminology, morphology, nomenclature, and history; (b) herbarium curation and common
herbarium practices; (c) field work, collecting, and preparing
specimens; (d) general knowledge of geography, earth history,
climatology, and geology; (e) theoretical background on speciation and evolutionary processes (including controversies); and
(f) biodiversity informatics. By placing plant systematics into
a broader context, taxonomic and organismal research can be
put easily into an hypothesis-driven context that can be rigorously addressed with new methods of analysis and additional
evidence as they emerge. Some of this information might be
disseminated effectively through a “Virtual Institute of Monography” on the Internet.
As a result of an effective educational program, students
should acquire a large range of skills along with a strong
knowledge of organisms per se. In addition, a broad formation will likely lead to an increased number of publications in
a variety of research areas, and hence increasing the chances
of success by those students in the professional marketplace.
The successful training of a large number of monographers in
this next generation should hopefully lead to an exponential
growth of people undertaking monographs in the years to
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
come. Otherwise, monographers may well become extinct, at
least in the professional world—and yet another “skills gap”
will indeed appear.
Successful publication of monographic works provides yet
another challenge to the monographer. Finding the time to dedicate to a comprehensive monographic project is one hurdle that
must be surmounted, but even when a manuscript is finished,
a suitable outlet for publication must be found. Large monographic treatments in hard copy format are costly to publish
and, even when support is found, the outlet is often in a journal
of low impact or as a book from a little-known publisher. Printon-demand options might represent a partial solution to this
problem, but even more attractive are various forms of electronic publication and dissemination. Three aspects are here
considered: publication, dissemination, and the monographic
infrastructure as a knowledge management system.
Publication. — Whatever their form, monographic studies often contain descriptive information on large numbers
of species, substantial evolutionary analyses and discussions,
keys, identification lists (and/or other appendices), and comprehensive indices. Consequently, the resulting manuscript and
associated figures (including maps) are lengthy and exceed
page limits allowed by most scientific journals. This problem
can be approached through “alternative” conventional outlets
or electronic publication.
Conventional outlets. – Monographs have customarily appeared either as complementary series within botanical journals, in institutional or independent series, or as independent
books. Examples of the first type include Strelitzia (related to
Bothalia), Opera Botanica (Nordic Journal of Botany), Blumea
Supplements (Blumea), Systematic Botany Monographs (Systematic Botany), and Botanical Magazine Monographs (Curtis’s Botanical Magazine). Examples of the second type are
Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium, Fontqueria,
Komarovia, Symbolae Botanicae Upsalienses (now a series of
Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis), Flora Neotropica, Memoirs of
the New York Botanical Garden, Monographs in Systematic
Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Species Plantarum: Flora of the World. These are all irregular in publication, and therefore at a disadvantage under evaluation with current scientometric practices. They also usually have low print
runs that cater to a limited audience. Despite their apparent low
impact, however, they have a long utility, gathering citations
over many decades. The third principal outlet for monographs
has been stand-alone, hard copy books. These often treat horticulturally important taxa and may have extensive illustrative
material, making them costly to acquire. They, too, can have
a long useful life. Such monographs may be supplemented by
electronic media furnished either as an included CD or DVD
or as additional online, Web-published content.
Two particular difficulties with conventionally published
monographs involve inclusion or exclusion of primary data, and
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publication of nomenclatural novelties. With respect to primary
data, such as specimens examined, they are often not published
in an accessible manner, if at all, due to space constraints of the
journals. When they are included, such data are often “closed”
in the hard copy or pdf versions, or even “hidden” electronically behind textual content. Such practices hamper onward
use of such data for testing new hypotheses and generating
new scientific results.
As for nomenclatural novelties, some uncertainty has existed over whether names established in theses and dissertations for M.S. and Ph.D. degrees were effectively published.
Although The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature
(now the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi,
and plants) specifically excludes them from consideration,
some academic institutions require theses to be published in a
specifically designed journal, which sometimes are accorded
ISBN or ISSN numbers. Print runs are small, often numbering
a dozen or more copies, and the costs are high (although the
issues may be used by libraries as exchange for other journals).
Novelties in these series are usually re-published in more conventional outlets, which can cause confusion.
Modern outlets. – Since the advent of the World Wide
Web over 20 years ago, and especially with the launch of Web
2.0 practices during the past few years, substantial progress
has been made using the Internet as an increasingly stable
and reliable outlet for a range of scientific products, including
monographs. Some journals now serve as outlets that cater to
the rapid publication of monographs.
At first the Web was widely seen as only a useful and
comparatively affordable mechanism for disseminating the
results of research endeavours. However, increasingly the Web
is now also used as an integral part of research infrastructure
that not only provides rapid access to essential research materials used in systematics and beyond (Smith & Figueiredo, 2011;
Beaulieu & al., 2012; Goff & al., 2012; Hamer & al., 2012; Parr
& al., 2012) but also enables the construction of scientific (and
other) research outputs on the Web in real time. This approach
also allows the participation of geographically separated individuals and teams with benefit of rapid input; this is further
considered below.
These developments have been accompanied by new or
revised database management/information systems for delivery of outputs from systematic research suitable for monographic production. Good examples include: (1) the widely
used Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System
(BRAHMS;, now in Version 7 and providing tools to format data for monographs and
to have these sent directly to a word processor; and (2) Scratchpads (, a biodiversity “social networking
tool” currently a part of the joint EU Framework Programme
7 e-infrastructure/e-Monocot initiative, ViBRANT (Virtual
Biodiversity Research and Access Network for Taxonomy;
A further set of tools, called TRIADA 2.0, was recently
launched by Pensoft Publishers. TRIADA provides a collaborative online platform for writing biodiversity manuscripts, including monographs (Pensoft Writing Tool, PWT), an editorial
manager and peer-review platform (Pensoft Journal System,
PJS), Pensoft Markup Tool (PMT), Pensoft Wiki Converter
(PWC), and more. TRIADA 2.0 tools are implemented in the
production process of the journal PhytoKeys (www.pensoft.
Additional advantages of using a website to host monographic works include virtually unlimited colour work, detailed
maps, and other features at a fraction of the cost of conventional
printing, plus the inclusion of supporting data such as specimen
records, morphological measurements, species geographic occurrences, etc. The latter have become increasingly valued as
support for biodiversity conservation. To remain useful, obviously, the infrastructure of websites must be kept up-to-date.
It is important to stress that the Web is about links as well
as site content. With the advent of near-instantaneous global
e-connectivity, the possibility of linking an intact monograph
to multiple Web resources has become increasingly attractive
and feasible. For example, links can be created to monographrelated biodiversity information that is hosted by like-minded
and partner organizations, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF:, Encyclopedia
of Life (EoL:, Biodiversity Heritage Library
(BHL:, and others. Links can also
be established to a range of different sorts of type specimens
(e.g., those held in JSTOR Plant Science,,
or other collections), or to protologues (e.g., those in BHL). In
the monograph proper, links can be provided to bibliographic
data and sources, or to atomized content, such as taxon treatments, herbarium specimens, locality and geographical distribution data, or even to any taxon name mentioned or referenced
in the monograph. An example of the routine linking of taxon
names to external resources through an automated process
[also referred to as “on the fly”], is the Pensoft Taxon Profile
(PTP; see such a profile created for the genus Quercus: http://
The use of semantic enhancements, describing the content
using domain-specific domain-defined tags, and the linking
to external resources is corollary to the shift from traditional
publishing via print, pdf, or html, to using extended markup
language (XML). Such a marked text is barely readable by a
human, but it is interpretable by a machine that contains a vocabulary, called a schema or data definition table (DTD), which
defines the meaning of the enclosed content in a semantic and
technical way. Such a document can be considered a complex
free-standing database, and with the help of a transformation
based on a style sheet (XSLT), can be formatted as a humanreadable html or pdf file. This can also be used for the creation
of hard copies. An additional virtue of an XML file, however,
is that it can be imported into dedicated databases, such as
the Plazi treatment repository. From here, certain parts of the
XML document, taking specimens cited as one example, can
be disseminated to users (e.g., EOL and GBIF). Use of such
a file also facilitates automated discovery, enables linking to
semantically related articles, provides access to data within
the article in actionable form, or facilitates integration of data
between articles (Shotton, 2009). A successful application of
Version of Record (identical to print version).
Marhold & Stuessy (eds.) and collaborators • Future of Botanical Monography
the XML in practice is Pensoft’s use of the TaxPub, a DTD
extension of the Journal Archiving and Publishing Tag Suit
of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (Penev & al., 2010a,
b, c, 2012).
With respect to collaboration, while this has often been a
feature of traditional hard copy monographs (Thomas & al.,
2011), an important aspect of the new electronic technologies
is that they greatly facilitate the writing of monographs simultaneously in a collaborative manner, i.e., by a team of specialists situated in different parts of the world. Existing tools that
facilitate this, such as Google Docs, are very useful, but do not
yet provide templates or services (e.g., markup, automated linking, automated XML queries, or exports to aggregators and/
or indexers of data). These are tools that will be increasingly
desired by monographers. In addition, it is nowadays possible
to export materials for monographs from information systems
(e.g., from Brahms, Scratchpads and Triada) in the form of
manuscripts in XML format and to submit these to publishers
for peer-review and editorial processing.
These last two steps, peer-review and definitive editing of
monographs, are of vital importance for increasing the quality
of science they contain. Finding reviewers for large revisionary works, however, can be extremely challenging. A solution
to this problem may come from innovative use of publishing
platforms that allow collaborative online evaluation of a manuscript, including public peer-review, as well as post-publication
peer-review, and comments and annotations to the published
texts (for which Scratchpads might provide solutions).
In summary, monographers need tools or software platforms that can provide:
• Collaborative writing of monographs
• Upfront markup of essential text elements prior to
submission to publishers
• Standard XML schemas, such as TaxPub, that
backup the markup process, as well as the subsequent
dissemination of atomized content)
• Compliance with internationally recognized
standards, such as the Darwin Core for describing
occurrence data (Willemse & al., 2008)
• Online peer-review and editorial processes, including
open/public peer-review workflows
• Automated linking of monograph content to web
resources and provision of semantic enhancements to
the published texts
• Automated dissemination of discrete units (including
taxon descriptions, synonymies, localities, images,
and more), along with associated metadata to provide
citation mechanisms
• Up-to-date mechanisms for publishing, preservation
and dissemination of primary data with associated
Dissemination. — Once a monograph has been completed,
the content and its underlying primary data become infinitely
more useful if these are exposed not only through conventional
e-dissemination, but also via tools that allow extracting and
mining of the content. These tools can be offered to the monographer as an additional service (e.g., Pensoft species profile), or
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
the monographer should be encouraged to expose the primary
data in a way that allows others to trawl them and build applications that will cover needs and specifications.
Electronic dissemination can include various versions of
the same monographic content, such as pdf, html or XML. If
disseminated in the correct way, considerable additional information on the group being monographed, such as its phylogeny, biogeography, ecology, cytology, dates of collecting
of specimens, collectors and their collecting routes, to name a
few, will also be obtainable with appropriate links to external
resources and metadata (e.g., bibliographic information; King
& al., 2011). However, two key issues exist which are integral
to any effective, well-formed e-dissemination. They are peer
review and open access, and are further considered below.
Electronic publishing and peer review. – Current advances
in desktop and web-publishing technology have made it possible for anyone to publish, in an effective sense (as governed
by the Code), monographs at lower cost and in larger numbers.
This has the potential disadvantage, however, of deliberately
or unintentionally limiting or excluding peer review, which is
essential for ensuring veracity of scientific content. The actual peer-review(s) can be published as accessory material, or
reviews can be posted with the monograph at the post-publication stage. A Wikipedia or citizen science-style refereeing
process could be advantageous and draw on a wider pool of
review expertise. Regardless of the pros and cons of publishing
monographs in this way, it is likely that dissemination of such
texts unencumbered by peer-based input will increasingly be
seen as an enabling, lucrative and affordable possibility. In
addition, such independently produced and hosted works may
have the same, or at least similar, stability to that offered by
large publishing houses, and will be cited and referenced by
interested researchers.
Open Access. – The volume of open access dissemination of outputs from biodiversity research is increasing, hence
ensuring the widest possible, barrier-free distribution of the
whole content at no charge to the readers. Botanical, and other
monographers in general, should engage and influence the current debate that is considering how, and at what cost, the outputs
of scientists, who are often funded by their respective governments, should be disseminated (e.g., Leptin, 2012). This debate
is gaining momentum and large numbers of scientists, being
irked by copyright, access and cost considerations, have stated
their intention to disengage with some publishing houses (see
for example Taylor, 2011). The texts produced by monographers
are often voluminous, and having to pay electronic or hard
copy page charges from modest research budgets frustrates
many systematists. The same applies to fees charged for open
access. Fortunately, open access to scientific results obtained
through public funding is becoming a non-negotiable part of
the policies of governments and funding agencies, at least in
some countries (e.g., Austria). In addition, open access does
not require subscription fees.
All the technological capabilities of the modern Web for
publishing botanical monographs can only be utilized to their
fullest extent under conditions of open access. Open access facilitates reading and dissemination of a pdf version of published
Version of Record (identical to print version).
Marhold & Stuessy (eds.) and collaborators • Future of Botanical Monography
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
texts, and it insures further use of such data, both by humans
and machines. An additional advantage of open access is that
information generated by monographers can reach a larger
end-user community (Steenkamp & Smith, 2003), well beyond
systems developed by, for example, JSTOR and AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture by FAO) for the
developing world.
The monographic infrastructure as a knowledge management system. — The full and real value of monographic work
is not solely that of only having a single, thorough taxonomic
treatise on a specific group. It is also the seamless stitching
together of information in several monographs to provide building blocks of a knowledge management system. The power of
such a system is enhanced through utilizing semantic markup
functionalities that allow interaction with databased content
derived from similar treatments (e.g., Creating such
datasets will allow powerful searches and data-mining possibilities through use of multiple information sets. Two significant issues, however, have to be addressed in relation to any
effective implementation of such methodologies: additional
infrastructure (and its costs), and archiving (including longterm survival).
New infrastructure and its costs. – Electronic publishing
comes at some cost. For traditionally produced hard copies,
storage costs have been minimal. The storing and maintaining
of accessible electronic versions of documents, as well as reference databases (e.g., images, bibliographies, specimens), will
require additional funding and long-term commitment by host
institutions. This must include support for development of journal production work flows, data and data-exchange protocols,
reference databases for bibliographic references, and ontologies (Walls & al., 2012) for morphological terminology. Also
important are stable URLs, development of authoring tools to
create semantically enhanced documents, creating interfaces
to data by both humans and machines (such as APIs, Application Programming Interfaces), and training of personnel. Costs
might be shared equitably among several institutions.
Archiving and longevity. – An existing possibility to secure
the long-term archiving of monographic content is established
through the U.S. National Library of Medicine Pub Med Central, which can accept publications in the TaxPub NLM DTD
(National Library of Medicine, Document Type Definition)
format (Catapano, 2010), with the additional advantage that the
content is linked to the rapidly growing publications library in
their repository, including currently in PubMed (the minimalist
version containing only the abstract).
Unsurprisingly, workshop participants unanimously reaffirmed the central importance of monography in systematic
botany. Perhaps more surprising, however, was that the group
strongly preferred monographs with a full descriptive, evolutionary, and interpretive content, rather than some abbreviated format. Use of the internet and other forms of electronic
publication were strongly encouraged. Workshop participants
stressed the importance of training Ph.D.s using the monograph as a central vehicle. In a realistic context, this means
assigning doctoral students smaller monophyletic (or presumably monophyletic) groups (10–15 species), so that they can
also work with modern aspects involving DNA, cytogenetics,
phylogeny, biogeography, and the processes of evolution. A
distinct advantage of publishing monographs electronically is
that, despite the storage and maintenance costs, semantically
enhanced and linked e-publications improve the possibility to
test hypotheses for which all the original data are accessible.
This is not possible, or at least very inefficient, through hard
copies. Electronic publication allows a much wider dissemination of the knowledge inherent in a monograph, hence fostering
future innovation.
Appreciation is expressed to: the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
for financial support that allowed the workshop to be convened; the
International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT) for additional
financial support for the workshop; the Slovak Academy of Sciences
for facilitating use of Smolenice Castle for the meeting; Eva Senková,
Managing Secretary of IAPT for organizing the logistical aspects of
the conference; Franz Stadler, production editor of Taxon, for critically
reading Part Three; and all participants who took time from their busy
schedules to focus on an important challenge in systematic botany.
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Appendix 1. Details of current resources for monographers.
Taxonomy, floristics, collections, phylogeny, DNA
• Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), established by
governments in 2001 to encourage free and open access to biodiversity
• Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, providing the latest
peer-reviewed and published opinions on the accepted scientific names
and synonyms of selected plant families:
• The Plant List, based on IPNI and Tropicos and other datasets,
including over 1,000,000 names of vascular plants and bryophytes with
preliminary data on acceptance and synonymy: http://www.theplantlist
• Species 2000/Catalogue of Life, a validated, synonymised checklist
for a large range of algae, fungi and plants with contributions from
ITIS, the Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, IOPI Global
Plant Checklist, and some family-specific validated databases (e.g.
AnnonBase, ILDIS, Solanaceae Source):
(an Annual Checklist in the form of a DVD is also issued with an
Version of Record (identical to print version).
Marhold & Stuessy (eds.) and collaborators • Future of Botanical Monography
TAXON 62 (1) • February 2013: 4–20
Appendix 1. Continued.
accompanying booklet in which all contributors are listed)
• Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) Taxonomy
for Plants, providing information on scientific and common names,
classification, distribution, references, and economic impacts for all
families and genera of vascular plants and over 46,000 species from
throughout the world, especially economic plants and their relatives:
• Angiosperm Phylogeny Website, a set of characterizations of all orders
and families of extant seed plants (not only angiosperms): http://www
• GenBank, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) genetic sequence
database, an annotated collection of publicly available DNA sequences:
• Index Herbariorum, with details of the world’s herbaria, their
collections, and current staff:
• Specimen databases (online) of individual herbaria, often with
associated images of whole specimens or labels thereof. Coverage varies
considerably, but so far very few collections are entirely online. The GPI
and its precursors have focused on types.
• International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN,
Melbourne Code; McNeill & al., 2012):
• International Plant Names Index (IPNI), for names of vascular plants,
incorporating Index Kewensis, the Gray Card Index, the Australian Plant
Names Index, and Index Filicum; an index of authors of plant names
(based on Brummitt & Powell, 1992); and an index of publications:
• Tropicos, incorporating Index of Mosses, including names, with data on
acceptance and synonymy, specimens, images, and publications; also
incorporating the Index to Plant Chromosome Numbers (IPCN): http://
• Index Nominum Genericorum (ING), for generic names of plants, fungi,
algae, and fossils:
• Indices Nominum Supragenericorum Plantarum Vascularium, for names
of vascular plants above the rank of genus: http://www.plantsystematics
• Index Hepaticarum, for names of hepatics (Marchantiophyta or
• Index Nominum Algarum, for names of algae: http://ucjeps.berkeley
• Index Fungorum,; MycoBank, http://; Fungal Names,
name/fungalname.html, all for names of fungi and associated data,
accepted as official repositories for registration of fungal names by the
Nomenclature Committee for Fungi (Taxon 62: 173–174, 2013).
• Fossilium Catalogus II: Plantae (Pars 1–110, 1913–2010, printed matter
only), for names of fossils
• Results of Algal, Fungal, and Plant Nomenclature Proposals, a database
of proposals to conserve and/or reject names under the Code: http://
• Books on names and their types, e.g., Order out of Chaos (Jarvis,
2007), the definitive treatise on the ca. 9000 Linnaean plant names and
their types, and the Linnaean Database (of the Linnaean Plant Name
Typification Project):
• Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), containing ca. 40,000,000 pages of
scanned literature mostly up until 1922:
• JSTOR, a digital archive of scholarly journals. Although a not-for-profit
service, a paid subscription is necessary to access the data. Access to
certain journals is available at various botanical libraries: http://www
• WorldCat, a search facility for locating books and other materials in
thousands of libraries worldwide:
• Gallica, the digital library project of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France,
especially rich in French-language publications:
• Biblioteca Digital del Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, containing
numerous publications that are not included in the BHL: http://
• Library catalogues of major botanical and natural history institutions,
e.g., Harvard University Herbaria (Hollis Catalog); Missouri Botanical
Garden; Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris; Natural History
Museum, London; New York Botanical Garden; Royal Botanic Gardens,
Kew; Smithsonian Institution Libraries
• Guide to the plant species descriptions published in seeds lists
from Botanic Gardens for the period 1800–1900: http://www
• Botanico-Periodicum-Huntianum, ed. 2 (BPH-2; Bridson & al., 2004),
a comprehensive listing of almost all botanical journals with standard
abbreviations for their titles:
• Taxonomic Literature, ed. 2 (TL-2; Stafleu & Cowan, 1976–1988; Stafleu
& Mennega, 1992–2000; Dorr & Nicolson, 2008–2009), including a
massive amount of information on botanical works published between
1753 and 1940 (including some pre-Linnaean materials), giving standard
abbreviations for titles, precise dates of publication, location of copies,
authors’ biographic details and location of their herbarium specimens
including types:
• Kew Bibliographic Database, incorporating the Kew Record of
Taxonomic Literature, the Plant Micromorphological Bibliographic
Database, and the Economic Botany Bibliographic Database, containing
a bibliography of over 200,000 entries on the taxonomy of vascular
plants published from 1971 up to the end of 2007 (when data-entry
• Thomson Reuters Scientific (BIOSIS, SCI, Web of Knowledge): A
major bibliographic indexing service, with full citations and abstracts;
coverage (for Biological Abstracts) dates back to 1926. For subscribers
Biological Abstracts can be accessed either directly (http://wokinfo
.com/products_tools/specialized/ba/) or through Web of Knowledge
( Overall information is at: http://
• Botany Subject Index (U.S. Department of Agriculture Library, 1958;
only in print). A photo-offset fifteen-volume reproduction of the USDA
National Agricultural Library botanical subject card catalogue (1906–
1952). Very comprehensive for older literature (315,000 entries).
• Auxilium ad Botanicorum Graphicem, providing images of botanists’
handwriting, useful for evaluating annotations on herbarium specimens:
• Botanical Latin, now in its 4th edition (Stearn, 1992), with a recent
Spanish translation, Latín botánico (Stearn, 2006), containing practically
everything one could ever need to know about the use of the Latin
language in plant systematics
• Latin words by William Whitaker, an accurate and comprehensive online
Latin-English and English-Latin dictionary, which usefully includes all
inflected forms of
• Google Language Tools, providing translations between more than 60
modern languages, as well as Latin; the quality of the translations varies:
• Google Earth and Google Maps, very useful for generating distribution
maps and georeferencing older specimens without latitude and longitude
data: and
• MapCarta provides an overlay of localities on satellite imagery. A
sidebar opens when one of the white locality dots is clicked, giving
georeferences in DMS and DM, elevations, and connections to Google
Maps, MapQuest, Geonames and others:
• Online world gazetteers (e.g. Geonames,;
Fuzzy Gazetteer, These are
interactive, providing latitudes and longitudes in DMS format.
• Regional gazetteers and botanical atlases (some actively or passively
• WorldClim, a set of global climate layers (climate grids) that can be used
for mapping and spatial modelling in a geographic information system
(GIS) or with other computer programs:
• Guide to Best Practices for Georeferencing (Chapman & Wieczorek,
2006; through GBIF:
• Digitised topographic maps. Good collections include the National
Library of Australia and Perry-Castañeda Map Library (University of
Texas, Austin).
Version of Record (identical to print version).
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