History of WorldPlants Project: How Many Species Out There?

1989: first PC's were available to "normal" persons. 
No online or computer version of Kew index, European checklist etc. was available

Idea (together with Joachim Rheinheimer / Beetles): how to get databases onto our computers?
It was way too early (no digital pictures, Kew Index and ZooRec were "printed only" and very cumbersome to use with many supplements)

Joachim Rheinheimer started to work on a Curculionidae worldwide database (60.000 species)

Ca. 1994: First version of Kew Index appears on CD-ROM, contains "names only", no synonymy, no distribution

Project idea: Take those data, sort them worldwide and cross-check against local floras and checklists

If I had known 1994 the monumental size of the task, I would have never started...


The Phases of the Project

Phase 1: Get all Kew Index names in files, organize them in a proper format
              Completed from 1994 - 1997
              1 million names, initially ca. 500.000 species listed as valid
              Index Filicum was not available electronically, needed to be re-typed manually (which by the way was the reason that World Ferns started as a separate project and dataset)

Phase 2: Incorporate available country and regional checklists including synonyms
              Biggest task of the entire project, needed 13 years
              Completed from 1997 - 2010 (additions still added...)
              Reduces number of valid species to about 380.000

Phase 3: Incorporate major published floras, where no detailed checklist was available
              Mostly completed from 1997 - 2012, regular additions ongoing
              Reduces number of valid species to about 350.000
              Distribution record complete for 90% of countries

Phase 4: Publish databases for Ferns and Orchids on own website (Karlsruhe University)
              Completed 2004 (with Bernd Schmitt as technical support), ongoing since with regular updates
              -> Other groups not yet covered (system insufficient for large groups)

Phase 5: Establish export procedure to Catalogue of Life
              Completed ca. 2013, since then regular exports into COfL
              Ca. 150.000 species curated = 45 % of total

Phase 6: Cross-check against IPNI files and standardize
              IPNI has much more information vs. Kew Index (publication year!)
              Completed 2010 - 2014 (COfL part, 150.000 species), 2014 - August 2016 (non-COfL part)
              Standardize abbreviations of authors (completed 2019-2020)
              Standardize distribution data and enable automatic data analysis (completed 2019-2020)

Phase 7: Establish new online format for World Plants
              Completed August 2020 (current website)
              Many new functionalities were subsequently added 2020 - 2023, ending in version 15.0 (March 2023)
              Better automatic counting and statistics functions established
              Country checklists generated on request

Phase 8: Refine taxonomic tree, establish sequence according to true relationship
              Completed July 2022 (section "Tree of Life")
              Use Kubitzki, APG etc.
              Use phylogenetic "DNA-Articles" - currently a multitude of publications
              Ongoing since inception of database, currently almost complete, additions ongoing

Phase 9: Add a survey of the major literature
              Completed November 2022 (section "Floras and Guides Worldwide")

Phase 10: Review and reorganize whole database critically
              Completed between March 2022 and October 2023
              About 6,000 uncertain taxa were eliminated and successfully put into synonymy
              Tried to standardize literature citations (at least as far as possible without too much work)
              About 300,000 synonyms which were suppressed in the early years were "reactivated" because the database system is more capable now
              Remaining countries with incomplete distribution data were specifically addressed (Siberia, Russian Far East, Bangladesh, Gambia...)

What is still missing?

Phase 11: Cross-check against genus revisions and single taxonomic papers
              - Impossible to complete by one person in a lifetime (too much work)
              - Access to online publications not available (no academic sponsor or access)
              - During working hours in regular job a major library is not accessible for me
              - Newer major publications are reviewed (Taxon, Novon, Phytotaxa, Phytokeys, etc.)

Phase 12: Add pictures for all groups
              - Not achievable for one person
              - Crowdsourcing is problematic (correct ID?)
              - Partnership with major picture archives are discussed