“Biodiversity is an incredibly important natural resource,” says Bente Eriksen from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg, one of the organisers. “The most obvious benefits stem from the plants and animals that provide us with food, medicines, clothes and building materials. But there are many other species that play a more behind-the-scenes role, forming ecosystems that regulate the Earth’s climate and affect the quality of the water we drink and the air we breathe.”

Need to understand to be able to save
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming organisms. This is essential for preserving species – for how can we save or protect a species if we do not even know that it exists? The role of taxonomy in society both globally and locally is the theme for the first day of the conference. Also on the agenda are various examples of how biological collections and a knowledge of species pave the way for the conservation of biodiversity.

Taxonomy goes hand-in-hand with systematics, which uses theoretical models to classify species and place them in an evolutionary context. An understanding of organisms’ evolutionary history and genetic background provides a basis for decisions on their preservation. On day two of the conference, researchers and doctoral students from Swedish and other Nordic seats of learning working on the classification and naming of the world’s organisms will discuss their latest findings.

Studies relationships within animal, fungi and plants
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg are studying relationships within animals, fungi and plants. With support from the Swedish Research Council , the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas) and the Swedish Taxonomy Initiative, they are looking into areas such as cryptic species, biogeography, the formation of species through hybridisation and chromosome doubling, and theoretical models for how results from the analysis of individual genes can be translated to accommodate a species.

The conference – Systematikdagarna 2010 – will bring 150 delegates from across the Nordic region together in Gothenburg. Hosting the event are the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and Department of Zoology at the University of Gothenburg, together with the Gothenburg Museum of Natural History and the Gothenburg Botanical Garden. Behind the event is the Swedish Systematics Association, with financial support from the Swedish Species Information Centre.

The media are very welcome to attend Systematikdagarna 2010, and ample opportunity will be provided to interview interesting young researchers. The conference will be held on 22-23 November at the Wallenberg Conference Centre, Medicinareberget, Gothenburg. The conference programme and further information can be found at: www.gnm.se

Bente Eriksen, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg
+46 (0)31 786 2684
+46 (0)7 0263 6533

Caption: Tropical rainforests are particularly biodiverse: the pale yellow tufts on the branches are lichens, while the plant with the orange flowers (Gaiadendron) is a parasite.
Photo: Bente Eriksen