How to handle taxon changes in PoWO that are not necessarily settled science

Continuing the discussion from This observation would be research grade if not for a taxon swap:

The issue of how to handle a PoWO taxon swap or merge that is not settled science interests me because the name Scaevola taccada was submerged (made a synonym) into the black berried Scaevola plumieri by PoWO, resurrecting Scaevola sericea to handle the white berried Scaevolas. If committed on iNaturalist, many if not all white berry Scaevola taccada observations would be submerged under Scaevola plumieri and Scaevola taccada would disappear. This also potentially impacts efforts in the future to conserve Scaevola plumieri in its native range. When I tried to trace back this change I learned that a single publication in the Caribbean apparently asserted this position. Yet the IAPT singled out this plant as an example of a plant that is an exception to the usual taxonomy rules and the Scaevola taccada name is to be conserved as a matter of a code exception/exemption. Links and a longer explanation are at:

Thus my question is what to do when PoWO apparently shifts on possibly a single publication but the taxonomical change is either not yet settled science (e.g. apparently Mahonia and Berberis) or runs contrary to code exemptions? I realize taxonomy is never really settled…

If a name has been formally conserved, I’d email Kew, as they’re likely just slow to take up the change, and log it as a deviation on iNat. I don’t think it would require any discussion.

In the less obvious of cases, i.e. where the change may be controversial, from

@loarie: “If you’d like to propose a deviation from POWO, flag the taxon (if its not already flagged) kick off a discussion for why you think the name is valid despite not being in POWO”

From that discussion the community should be allowed input— you need to alert prospective stakeholders to the conversation and give them sufficient time to respond—and then build some consensus around the change before committing it.

You can find a list of deviations in each taxon framework here:

1 Like

Thanks, I read through those links, very informative! I am not a curator and am unfamiliar with the taxon framework relationships, so I opted to flag the taxon. Scott answered my question in the post you cited from the year before I joined iNaturalist. Again, my thanks!