International Organization for Plant Information
Provisional Global Plant Checklist

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Concept of the provisional checklist
"Potential Taxa" in the checklist database
System setup
Source datasets and their derivation
TDWG geographical scheme
Generic classification
Sponsor acknowledgements

Concept of the provisional checklist

The concept of a provisional Checklist was developed at a meeting of the IOPI Checklist Committee at the Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid, Spain, October 2, 1995.

This decision to start an initial preliminary Checklist with minimal extra funding was made in light of slow progress with the planned full Checklist and no likelihood of substantial funding being found without having some preliminary product. This initial provisional Checklist is available on the WorldWide Web via the IOPI Home Page and serves several functions:

  • demonstrate to funding bodies that the Checklist is a viable project
  • enable us to test procedures for entering and botanically editing data
  • enable contributors to the Species Plantarum project to expeditiously submit data for the Checklist.

This provisional Checklist includes basic data for each species (or infraspecific taxon if present), with three levels of data present: (i) source datasets (the data shown as provided by the database owners or custodians), (ii) partly coordinated /edited entries, and (iii) fully coordinated entries.Users will access data by entering the taxon name into a query form on the screen. The basic data included initially depends on what is available from each source. The family name is also included (given as in the published Kew list, at least initially - that list is continually being refined).

Users can access data by entering the taxon name (genus or genus* for all entered species or genus + species for a particular species) into a query form on the screen.

The preliminary Checklist started with three datasets, namely those for Australia, Peru and Europe. The Casuarinaceae from the research of Karen Wilson and Dr Lawrie Johnson was added as an example of a whole family. Other datasets have been added since (see source datasets). 

Custodians of existing datasets are invited to contact Karen Wilson to discuss inclusion of their data for wide availability. We have (limited) funding to help with computerising non-electronic datasets. These datasets are received by Richard Pankhurst in Edinburgh or Walter Berendsohn in Berlin and are then hand edited, with funding needed to hire help to speed up this task. The 'master' Checklist is currently kept at Berlin for access via the Home Page.

[Karen Wilson, Convener, IOPI Checklist Committee]

"Potential Taxa" in the checklist database

The database stores and maintains source datasets in their original form. The source datasets represent a certain view of a taxon at the time of the publication of the reference cited. This taxonomic concept, represented by a scientific name and its source reference ("sec." = secundum, according to) is called a potential taxon.

The edited or partly edited record in the database represents a potential taxon which is presently considered to have a preferred status. The taxonomic editor can relate other potential taxa (source records) to that preferred view. It may for example be stated that the view of the taxon given in a specified Flora or Monograph is congruent, included, or only partly included in the preferred view. This provides a powerful tool to map information linked to such source records (e.g. descriptive information, uses, etc.) to the currently preferred view. 

For a discussion of "Potential Taxa" see the presentation published under Session IV, Data Structures for Taxonomic Names and Classifications (, or the articles in Taxon 44:207-212 (1995) and 46:283-309 (1997). 

[Walter Berendsohn]

System setup

The system in Berlin currently consists of a database server under Windows 2000 Server, with the database management system SQL Server 2000. HTML pages are served to the World Wide Web using Active Server Pages on an Internet Information Server (on a separate server). The ASP program constitute the called BerlinModelViewer v 1.0 that will soon be released under public license.

The first setup of the database, which was accessible on the WWW until May 31,1997, was implemented by Mark A. Ziegler, who also programmed the generic conversion tool for tagged field format formerly used in data import. This first GPC database was completely re-designed (May - July 1997) by Frank Wolfram, with the aim of closer adherence to the published IOPI model. The interface between SQL Server and Internet Information Server is now implemented using Microsoft Active Server Page technology.
Finally during Oct. 2002 Mar. 2003 the database was again remodelled and migrated to the Berlin Model by Javier de la Torre. .

The text on the WWW pages was written (if not cited otherwise) by Walter Berendsohn and Karen Wilson.

Geographic distribution

Geographic distributions for fully edited taxon records in the GPC database are to use the Botanical Recording Units (BRU's) as published in Hollis, S. & Brummitt, R. (1992): World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, Plant Taxonomic Database Standards No. 2, International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases for Plant Sciences (TDWG), Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh. The data are available in electronic form under The second version of the scheme is available under

However, most of the source datasets provided to IOPI do not adhere to this standard, so that a "distribution phrase" is used to accomodate non-standard (or proprietary standard) geographical data. In case that a "proprietary" encoding of the geographical distribution is used, please provide a text or table (will be included as a URL in the notes field of checklist output; example: Flora Europaea, Med-Checklist). 

Generic classification

Although the Berlin Model database supports alternative classifications, for the incorporated source datasets a pragmatic approach was taken to facilitate access to the data. The classification provided by the source record is cited ("SourceHigherTaxon") in unaltered form. However, assignment of higher taxa for record retrieval purposes is based on a very simple hierarchical scheme. All records in the database are linked to a generic record in a single source, which in turn provides the family name. 

The data on genera are based on the publication Vascular Plant Families and Genera compiled by R.K.Brummitt and published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1992 (available from Kew's Mail Order Department). The file currently undergoes major revision and an updated version will be provided. However, for the time being the file (and the additions introduced in the process of importing datasets for the IOPI database) continues to be used as the generic backbone of the GPC. It can be downloaded in delimited text format, by kind permission of RGB Kew. (Please note that this is a modified version of the Brummitt data; genera which have been added in the process of importing datasets can be identified by their GeneraKew_ID beeing higher than 100000. These additional records have not been edited at all, the names have only been added to allow linking of the imported source datasets to family names. They may be included in the revised version of the Kew list under other ID numbers.)

Assigning a source record to a genus in the table may be hampered by the presence of generic homonyms. Since the authors are not cited from the Kew list, this is only relevant (for the functioning of the GPC) if the family assignment differs between the homonyms. The complete table can be provided upon request.

Diacritics and other special characters 

The GPC database uses the Unicode standard character set. These characters are converted to HTML tags during a query when output to the World Wide Web is generated.  During imports, we can convert any character encoding, as long as the codes are unique and the specification is provided with the dataset. However, source data files which use ANSI or HTML tags are the least troublesome.Characters not in the ANSI character set must be transliterated or encoded by the provider of the dataset. This information should be included in the description of the dataset. 

(Direct financial contributions.)

Data conversions were supported by grants from the New Phytologist Trust (US$1 500) and from an anonymous donor ($ 750). The former has also sustained IOPI from the start ($2 250 p.a.). Setting up the initial version of the database was supported by a grant from the International Association for Plant Taxonomy ($1 000). The implementation of the revised database version was supported by a grant from an anonymous donor ($5 000). CODATA has granted up to $5 000 p.a. for several years to assist the travel of key Checklist Committee members. Further development of the database, particularly the interface to the Species 2000 project, is financed by the European Union in the context of the Species2000 europa project. A number of projects are using the Berlin Model database and the IOPI project is using output from those projects (see Berlin Model  pages).

  © 1996-2007 The International Organization for Plant Information.
This page last updated: Donnerstag, 18. Dezember 2003