Internet encyclopedia to list all animal and plant species

From apples to zebras, all 1.8 million known plant and animal species will be listed in an Internet-based “Encyclopedia of Life” under a US$100 million project, scientists revealed.

The 10-year scheme, launched with initial grants of US$12.5 million from two U.S.-based foundations, could aid everyone from children with biology homework to governments planning how to protect endangered species.

The project would be led by the U.S. Field Museum, Harvard University, Marine Biological Laboratory, Missouri Botanical Garden,
Smithsonian Institution, and Biodiversity Heritage Library — a group that includes London’s Natural History Museum, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, England.

“The Encyclopedia of Life plans to create an entry for every named species,” James Edwards, executive director of the project. “At the moment that’s 1.8 million.”

The free Encyclopedia would focus mainly on animals, plants and fungi with microbes to follow, blending text, photographs, maps and videos in a common format for each. Expansion of the Internet in recent years made the multi-media project possible.

Demonstration pages at include entries about polar bears, rice, death cap mushrooms and a “yeti crab” with hairy claws recently found in the South Pacific.

Species would be added as they were identified. Edwards said there might be 8-10 million on earth, adding that estimates ranged from 5-100 million. Fossil species may also be added.

The encyclopedia, to be run by a team of about 25-35 people, could help chart threats to species from pollution, habitat destruction and global warming.

Source: Yahoo! News

Related Links: Encyclopedia of Life