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Catalogue of Life

The University of Reading has announced that its work in creating a unique list of all life on Earth will be continued by a leading research centre in Leiden, Holland.

The Catalogue of Life, is a list of all life on Earth and provides vital information on more than 1.4 million species. Instigated in 1997 by the late Professor Frank Bisby, this information has been compiled into a dictionary and is used worldwide by biodiversity and conservation groups to protect these species.

The Catalogue of Life was built up in Reading from scratch and over time has received data contributions from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System in the USA, the World Register of Marine Species and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It holds fundamental data on more than 70% of the world’s species and is a crucial resource that helps protect life in all forms on the planet. It is described as the most comprehensive and authoritative global index of species currently available and to have created such a list is a great achievement for all involved.

Dr Alistair Culham, part of the University’s School of Biological Sciences, explains: “to understand the rate at which species are dying out, we need to know how many there are and where they live to begin with. That information didn’t exist before the Catalogue of Life.”

In 2000, the Catalogue of Life contained 10% of known species on Earth and today it contains information on over 70%. The Catalogue of Life is leaving its home in Reading to go to Leiden, Holland, so that another core-funded research institution will have an opportunity to host it.

The amount of time and effort that has gone into the Catalogue of Life is astronomical and Dr Culham adds: ‘’its success is due to the hard work and expertise of our colleagues at Reading and our partners around the world.”

“New species continue to be discovered at the rate of several thousand a year and genomic techniques are now challenging our ideas of how many undiscovered species remain.”

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