Towards an anthropology of plant names: part 4: The concept of species

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    For an arboriculturist, horticulturalist or land manager responsible for land cover which composes living individuals and populations, an understanding of the concept of species is important for a variety of reasons. Species are the fundamental taxonomic units of biological classification and the way information and knowledge are communicated. As a measure of biodiversity, ‘species count’ is a term of reference that is used to inform conservation efforts and direct resources to preserve ‘rare’ or ‘endangered’ species or eradicate others.
    Environmental laws are framed in terms of species. Even our understanding of human nature is affected by our understanding of the species concept. At a fundamental level, this requires that we identify an organism not just as a particular kind of living thing, but as an entity we can perceive or abstract at a particular rank or level in a classification system. However, the concept of what constitutes a species becomes much less clear when we undertake a wider review of the literature. Biologists offer over 20 definitions of the term. So the nature of species is somewhat controversial in the field of biology, but you may be surprised to find it is also a challenging concept in philosophy. Whereas biologists disagree on the definition of the term species, philosophers disagree over the ontological status of species – or in layman’s terms, the way in which a species might even exist. This article explores the art and science of naming plants through the two eyed seeing of a student of anthropology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)89-93
    Number of pages5
    JournalArboricultural Association Magazine
    VolumeAutumn 2022
    Issue number198
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • History and Philosophy of Science


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