PS 82-92 - TNRS: A taxonomic name resolution service for plants

Friday, August 12, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Brad Boyle1, Zhenyuan Lu2, Juan Antonio Raygoza Garay3, Nicole Hopkins3, Chris Freeland4, Brian J. Enquist5, William Piel6, Martha Narro3, Sonya Lowry3 and Sheldon McKay3, (1)Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, (2)Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, (3)iPlant Collaborative, (4)Missouri Botanical Garden, (5)Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, (6)Yale University

Taxonomic error is a major impediment to integrative research in organismal biology. Misspelled, outdated, or ambiguous names are common in ecological data, and can lead to mismatched observations, erroneous conclusions, and an inability to generalize results across space and time. Even databases such as GBIF (, VegBank (, SALVIAS (, and TraitNet ( suffer from taxonomic error and uncertainty, with up to 30% of taxon-author strings unmatched to any validly-published name. Among published names, 5-20% may be synonymous. The implications of such high rates of error for ecology, conservation biology, and science-based policy are severe. Unfortunately, despite the growing availability of digitized sources of names (,,, and taxonomic opinion (,, the standardization of taxonomic names remains a time-consuming, error-prone, and largely ad hoc process. 


As a contribution to solving this taxonomic impediment, iPlant ( and the Botanical Information and Ecology Network (, in collaboration with the Missouri Botanical Garden ( and others, have developed the Taxonomic Name Resolution Service, or TNRS, an online tool for automated and user-assisted standardization of plant taxonomic names. The TNRS rapidly validates lists of species against the authoritative compilation of names and synonymy within the Tropicos database ( Building upon and extending existing open source solutions such as the GNI parser ( ) and Taxamatch ( ), the TNRS detects and corrects misspelled names and authorities, extracts embedded annotations and morphospecies strings, converts synonyms to accepted names, and provides updated names of families according to the recent APGIII classification.

Currently accessible as a stand-alone web application (, the TNRS will also be released within the iPlant Discovery Environment ( ) and as a RESTful web service with additional functionality, including the ability to discover and standardize taxon names at tips and internal nodes of phylogenies.

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