Curators need to take account of the consequences of taxon swaps on other countries

Recent example is the ongoing work a NZ swap of Cyrtostylis reniformis to C. rotundifolia has made for Victorian and South Australian observers/identifiers.

I guess what I’m saying is that there needs to be a brake when a taxon swap that affects one area will be applied (potentially globally) to another, to allow for discussion/resolution of the taxonomy in each area/country/…


And this means different taxonomy in different countries?

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What’s the specific issue with this swap?

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Cyrtostylis reniformis is a valid terrestial orchid taxon for Australia. The New Zealand species C. rotundifolia has previously been regarded as C. reniformis.

The taxon swap caused around 30 Australian records (mostly, if not all, at research grade and agreeably identified by several people) to be shifted to rotundifolia 3 months ago. As has happened with similar swaps, @reiner immediately “reactivated” the taxon for reniformis and notified as many observers/identifiers as possible asking them to restore their original ID’s. Many of us did that immediately. I realised yesterday that many records were still sitting at genus level – it seems that we need everyone to restore to get back to species level – a lot of work, checking every Australian Cyrtostylis (needing ID), then checking whether the observer/identifier was active before adding a personal request to restore. At the end of that, observations for C. reniformis made before the swap look very messy and potentially confusing.

What worries me is that curators look only into their corner of the world. In this case, and at least one other, the NZ curator has apologised but the problem has arisen because they have been working within their local node of iNat which means they wouldn’t have seen the valid Australian records.
How can we un-mess-this-up?

The taxon change that was committed was not following the Curator Guidelines, which clearly states that Plants of the World Online is the taxonomic authority for vascular plants on iNaturalist. POWO accepts Cyrtostylis reniformis:

In special circumstances, we can deviate from POWO’s decisions, but you may find other curators using that as a reference and not APC. If there are any taxa that are on iNat that are not accepted in POWO, I recommend preemptively flagging it so that a deviation can be discussed before a taxon change goes through. To facilitate finding those taxonomic differences, it’s possible the staff could help with a comparison spreadsheet (e.g. between iNat and POWO and APC or ALA, but I can’t make promises on their behalf), or the API could be used.

The quote there:

@stephen_thorpe: Sorry, my bad! It was a side effect of having (based on NZOR) as distinct from iNat. org!

Is not based in any policy on iNaturalist. All network nodes, including the new iNaturalistAU, follow the same policies: (fyi @tiwane, as this needs to be pointed out—again—to this curator, but I…don’t care to do that myself)


Thanks @bouteloua and @tiwane
Is there anyway we can clean the affected records to show them without the mess of the taxon swap?

I think it’s too late now unfortunately. If you catch an error in a taxon swap right away, there is a secret emergency reversal option that only staff can access. But now that people have added other IDs and the records are mostly fixed, I think that reversal wouldn’t work, and might make the “conversation” on each observation more confusing if the taxon-change-IDs were deleted.

Thanks for that tip (I hope it doesn’t need to be used in the future). I absolutely agree with you – doing the reversal now would make the “conversation” ever so confusing.
I’m not sure what the protocols are for closing this off. I am happy for you to do so.


Unfortunately, I consider the default standard Plants of the World Online (and The Plant List) a blunt tool for accurately reflecting some of the current taxonomic treatments for native NZ/Australian taxa - it is a particular weakness being northern hemisphere centric. The most authoritative databases are (NZ) and (Aust). As others have noted, it is useful to have exceptions to the PWO in certain cases.

NZ sources consider Cyrtostylis rotundifolia Hook.f. as an endemic taxon, and not that of Cyrtostylis reniformis R.Br. (1810). See and for further information on this.

Tag names, aff’s, segregates, and misapplications are quite common in the Australasian orchids - one must tread very carefully when making taxon changes for them in the iNat platform! Also, the lack of ability to use tag (and cultivar) names on the iNat platform for distinctive entities has been a source of great frustration among orchidologists in that part of the world. There are definitely orchid segregates with consistent characters that are not served well. Custom name functionality was lost several years ago in the evolution of the iNat platform which has solved problems of inconsistency but also lost the ability to be more granular for names.

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