Hitting the right target: taxonomic challenges for, and of, plant invasions
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This paper explores how a lack of taxonomic expertise, and by implication a dearth of taxonomic products such as identification tools, has hindered progress in understanding and managing biological invasions. It also explores how the taxonomic endeavour could benefit from studies of invasive species. We review the literature on the current situation in taxonomy with a focus on the challenges of identifying alien plant species and explore how this has affected the study of biological invasions. Biosecurity strategies, legislation dealing with invasive species, quarantine, weed surveillance and monitoring all depend on accurate and rapid identification of non-native taxa. However, such identification can be challenging because the taxonomic skill base in most countries is diffuse and lacks critical mass. Taxonomic resources are essential for the effective management of invasive plants and incorrect identifications can impede ecological studies. On the other hand, biological invasions have provided important tests of basic theories about species concepts. Better integration of classical alpha taxonomy and modern genetic taxonomic approaches will improve the accuracy of species identification and further refine taxonomic classification at the level of populations and genotypes in the field and laboratory. Modern taxonomy therefore needs to integrate both classical and new concepts and approaches. In particular, differing points of view between the proponents of morphological and molecular approaches should be negotiated because a narrow taxonomic perspective is harmful; the rigour of taxonomic decision-making clearly increases if insights from a variety of different complementary disciplines are combined and confronted. Taxonomy plays a critical role in the study of plant invasions and in turn benefits from the insights gained from these studies.