Update of the International Code of Nomenclature

By Bobbie Stephenson

Formerly called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN), the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants, fungi and a few other groups of organisms, all those "traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants". The ICBN was changed to the ICN at the International Botanical Congress (IBC) in Melbourne, Australia in July 2011 as part of the Melbourne Code. Other major changes resulting from the Melbourne congress were:

  1. The Code now permits electronic-only publication of names of new taxa; not paper copies in libraries.

  2. The requirement for a Latin validating diagnosis or description was changed to allow either English or Latin for these essential components of the publication of a new name.

  3. ”One fungus, one name” and "one fossil, one name"; the concepts of anamorph and teleomorph (life stages of fungi) and morphotaxa (for fossils) have been eliminated.

  4. As an experiment with "registration of names", new fungal descriptions require the use of an identifier from "a recognized repository"; Index Fungorum and MycoBank.

The newest and current version of the code is the Shenzen Code adopted in July 2017. As with previous codes, it took effect as soon as it was ratified by the IBC on 29 July 2017, and the documentation of the code in its final form was published 26 June 2018. View it at:https://www.iapt-taxon.org/nomen/main.php

A major result of the Shenzen congress was “The Shenzhen Declaration on Plant Sciences – Uniting plant sciences and society to build a green, sustainable Earth.” The Shenzhen call for action has seven priorities:

  1. To become responsible scientists and research communities who pursue plant sciences in the context of a changing world

  2. To enhance support for the plant sciences to achieve global sustainability

  3. To cooperate and integrate across nations and regions and to work together across disciplines and cultures to address common goals

  4. To build and use new technologies and big data platforms to increase exploration and understanding of nature

  5. To accelerate the inventory of life on Earth for the wise use of nature and the benefit of humankind

  6. To value, document, and protect indigenous, traditional, and local knowledge about plants and nature.

  7. To engage the power of the public with the power of plants through greater participation and outreach, innovative education, and citizen science.

The name of the Code is partly capitalized and partly not. The lower-case for "algae, fungi, and plants" indicates that these terms are not formal names of clades but indicate groups of organisms that were historically known by these names and traditionally studied by phycologists, mycologists, and botanists. This includes blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria); fungi, including chytrids, oomycetes, and slime molds; photosynthetic protists and taxonomically related non- photosynthetic groups. There are special provisions in the ICN for some of these groups, as there are for fossils.

The ICN can only be changed by an International Botanical Congress (IBC), with the International Association for Plant Taxonomy providing the supporting infrastructure. Each new edition supersedes the earlier editions and is retroactive back to 1753, except where different starting dates are specified.

A separate code, the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, gives rules and recommendations that supplement the ICN.

To read an online copy of the International Code of Nomenclature, click on the photo above.