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Ambio. 2008 Mar;37(2):114-8.

Error cascades in the biological sciences: the unwanted consequences of using bad taxonomy in ecology.

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  • Centro Nacional Patag√≥nico, National Council for Scientific and Technological Investigations, CONICET, Ecolog√≠a Terrestre, Chubut, Argentina. bortolus@cenpat.edu.ar


Why do ecologists seem to underestimate the consequences of using bad taxonomy? Is it because the consequences of doing so have not been yet scrutinized well enough? Is it because these consequences are irrelevant? In this paper I examine and discuss these questions, focusing on the fact that because ecological works provide baseline information for many other biological disciplines, they play a key role in spreading and magnifying the abundance of a variety of conceptual and methodological errors. Although overlooked and underestimated, this cascade-like process originates from trivial taxonomical problems that affect hypotheses and ideas, but it soon shifts into a profound practical problem affecting our knowledge about nature, as well as the ecosystem structure and functioning and the efficiency of human health care programs. In order to improve the intercommunication among disciplines, I propose a set of specific requirements that peer reviewed journals should request from all authors, and I also advocate for urgent institutional and financial support directed at reinvigorating the formation of scientific collections that integrate taxonomy and ecology.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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