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NZ: World first to catalogue all species

22 May 2012
New Zealand has catalogued all of its known living and fossil life. Credit: NMFS/Southwest Fisheries Science Center

New Zealand has catalogued all of its known living and fossil life. Credit: NMFS/Southwest Fisheries Science Center

New Zealand has become the first country in the world to catalogue all of its known living and fossil life.

The third and final book in the series New Zealand Inventory of Biodiversity will be launched this week in Wellington.

This work was led by NIWA’s Dr Dennis Gordon, involving 237 other New Zealand and overseas authors.

The New Zealand Inventory of Biodiversity is a three-volume inventory that offers the first full review of New Zealand’s entire known species of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms - more than 56,200 living species and 14,700 fossil species - covering all life in all environments, from the Cambrian (around 530 million years ago) to the present day.

“This 1758 page review and inventory of ‘all of life through all of time’ in New Zealand, involving specialists in 19 countries, has taken a decade to complete,” said Dr Gordon.

Worldwide, approximately 1.8 million species of life have so far been described. New Zealand has nearly half the number of marine species that are in the European region, even though Europe’s marine area is five and a half times larger than New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which shows just how rich the country’s marine life is, even though it hasn’t all been discovered yet.

“We have done the stocktake now, and by bringing it all together in this work, everybody can see what we have and we can use that information in all sorts of ways. Before the inventory, the species names were scattered throughout the scientific literature,” says Dr Gordon

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New Zealand has catalogued all of its known living and fossil life. Credit: NMFS/Southwest Fisheries Science Center

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