GSPC Target 1

Objective I: Plant diversity is well understood, documented and recognized

Objective II: Plant diversity is urgently and effectively conserved

Objective III: Plant diversity is used in a sustainable and equitable manner

Objective IV: Education and awareness about plant diversity, its role in sustainable livelihoods and importance to all life on earth is promoted

Objective V: The capacities and public engagement necessary to implement the Strategy have been developed


The original GSPC Target 1 aimed to develop “a widely accessible working list of known plant species as a step towards a complete world flora” and this target has almost been achieved.

While efforts to complete the working list will continue, the focus beyond 2010  is to enhance the list and make it more useful, accessible and functional for end users by progressing to the second part of the 2010 target – ‘as a step towards a complete flora’.

This may include developing more complete synonymy, updating geographic distributions to country level by drawing on national floras, checklists and international initiatives; inclusion of basic identification tools (keys, pictures and basic descriptions) and inclusion of local and vernacular names where possible.

Download an introduction to Target 1 here.

Learn more

The first definitive list of plant species for the Global Strategy for Plants conservation was published at in December 2010. The Plant List includes some 300,000 species of plants.

For comparison, a more ambitious project called The Catalogue of Life which aims to list all living things including plants, animals, fungi, microbes, etc recorded 1.3 million species in its 2011 annual checklist. Both the Catalogue of Life and The Plant List are incomplete; and there’s a debate as to whether either of them will ever be finished as new discoveries are constantly being made.

 Hyphaene thebaica

Creating a definitive list of plants seems a simple task. However, the same plant species may be given a different name by people in differing places and at differing times (or simultaneously!) The Plant List includes 300,000 species yet there are at least a further 480,000 names by which these plants are also known (synonyms)  i.e. often there are many plant names for one plant species.  For example, the tree which is commonly known as the Doum Palm or Gingerbread Tree, and whose scientific name is Hyphaene thebaica, is also known by 16 other scientific names. 

In calling for the creation of a complete world flora, this target goes beyond simply listing the names of all know species, but includes providing additional information about each species. Such information should include more complete synonymy, local and vernacular names, geographical distribution, links to descriptions and conservation status (linking to Target 2).

There are many examples of national and regional floras and these will form the basis for developing a complete world flora.

The implementation of this target relates to Target 19 of the Aichi targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

T19: By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied.  



At the national level, the first step in implementing this target is to develop a national plant checklist. Most countries do already have a national checklist and many have a national Flora. For areas where there is no plant checklist, regional checklists may provide a good starting point. Other sources of information include the Catalogue of Life, which can provide a list of all species recorded for a particular country. From this list, a checklist of plants can be extracted. Similarly the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) provides information on species recorded in each country.  

There are many examples of national and regional floras, and increasingly these are available on-line. A list of some on-line floras is available at

At the global level, a range of tools and resources exist to support the implementation of this target. These include The Plant List, more than 250 years of published Floras, treatments and monographs and the APG3 classification system that can be used to define the family-level framework.

In April 2012, four leading botanic gardens: the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) and the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), announced plans to develop the World Flora—the first modern, online catalogue of the world’s plants—to be made available by the year 2020. Read more about this here and download an information paper about the World Flora on-line project here.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) adopts standard references (checklists) to be used by Parties when referring to the scientific names of species that are, or may become, threatened by trade. These references inform the accepted names that should be used on CITES permits and annual reports. They also include, where possible, major synonyms. The standard references are updated at every Conference of the Parties (CoP) based on the recommendations of the CITES Animals and Plants Committees. The list of standard references is included in a CITES Resolution on Standard Nomenclature (for flora see Annex 2). Various publications have also been produced by both the CITES Secretariat and individual CITES Parties.


Tools and resources

Please also check in the database of Tools of Resources for Case Studies relevant to this target.



The first definitive list of plant species for the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation was published at in December 2010. Version 1.1, of the Plant List was released in September 2013. It includes: 642 plant families, 17,020 plant genera and 1,064,035 scientific plant names of species rank. Of these 350,699 are accepted species names and 242,712 names are yet to be resolved.

A number of initiatives are currently in place that address this Target:

  • The World Flora Online Project

  •  e-monocot

  • The Global Plants Initiative – digitisation of herbarium records

  • The development of National floras – many of which are now available electronically and accessible on-line.

World Flora Online Project

In October 2012 the World Flora Online project was launched in India, at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) . The aim of the project is to achieve a comprehensive and authoritative ‘online flora of all known plants’ by 2020 with the collaboration of botanical institutions. The World Flora Online aims to deliver:

  • Scientific names  - Accepted names and synonyms from a revised and updated version of The Plant List, with the option of non consensus names.

  • Classification links to higher lever taxa- genera, family, class and divisions based on the current APG 3 classification.

  • Descriptions-  options to have multiple descriptions associated with the species on a taxonomic and regional level

  • Images- drawing, photographs herbaiumn speicmens with high resolution detail

  • Identification keys

  • Distributions – national level distribution

In January, 2013 the Memorandum of Understanding on the World Flora Online, was opened for signature. By 2014, 20 institutions and organisations have signed the MOU which marks official establishment in the botanical community, several additional organisations have shown interest and are expected to sign. More information is available here


This is a UK based collaboration involving leading biodiversity institutions; RBG Kew, the Natural History Museum (NHM) and Oxford University. Together they plan to build an online web resource for monocots - e-monocot ( . Primarily aimed at biologist and environmental scientists but also available to all users which include volunteers and the general public. This resource aims to provide information such as nomenclature, taxonomic descriptions, images, identification guides, and geographical, with additional information focusing on ecological, DNA sequence and conservation.

The Global plants initiative (GPI)

This international project aims to digitalize herbaria specimens making plant type specimens more widely accessible. The partners include over 270 institutions in more than 70 countries. In Paris for example, the MNHN (Muséum national d'Histoire Naturelle) has digitized 6 million vascular plant specimens with 25% documented from Africa, 18% of specimens have been digitized for France and Asia .The scanned images can be viewed at this web link In addition the server contains a total of 3 million digitized cryptogams.


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