Computer-aided species identification tools for capacity building in taxonomy

Investigator(s): Dr. Pierre Grard, Dr. B.R. Ramesh, D. Balasubramanian & N. Ayyappan
Start date: 2003-2017
Axis 4. of the Ecology Department /
History and Background:

New tools for capacity building in Taxonomy

The number of taxonomists and ecologists is dwindling the world over at an alarming rate. This has been acknowledged as one of the “taxonomic impediments” hindering the full implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD Secretariat has called for a global taxonomy initiative (GTI) to remove or reduce the knowledge gaps in our taxonomic system. This has led to the development of several projects on the “sound management of biological diversity” This research project, consisting of four phases of implementation is aimed at developing multimedia tools of taxa self-training and identification of species.

Research activities:

This project is based on the data collected by the Institute on mangroves, weeds, trees of the Western Ghats and pollen taxa. Various applications available online or as CD-ROMs, rely on a common tool for identification and self-training of taxonomists (IDAO) developed by CIRAD.

This software is based on the calculation of similarity coefficients which allows for data insufficiency, intra-specific variations as also errors of observation. The identification system, entirely graphic, provides multi-entry points, allows identification of incomplete samples and certain level of observational errors, and enables specialists and non-specialists to make determinations of taxa by an alogoritham, in effect, generating rules as required at any stage of identification, as like the way by which experts discriminating taxa by using which character(s) should be used in various circumstances. IDAO builds a conceptual plant for every selection of characters. Subsequently, at each step of the identification process, a similarity coefficient is calculated for each species based on the user supplied characters Contrarily to dichotomous keys, the species here are not eliminated: only the percentage of similarity is modified. An identikit of the individual is internally programmed to react to every response of the user and this enables the non-specialist of botany to identify the species through illustrations.

Once the identification procedure is completed, the user is provided with a descriptive analysis of the species in which all technical terminology has been hyper-linked. The entire collection of documents (photographs, illustrations and descriptions) is available at all times. This system is also adapted to Android apps.

Main outputs:

Digital publication: Species identification tools

1. Prosperi, J. Ramesh, B. R., Grard, P., Jayatissa L.P., Aravajy, S. & Depommier, D. 2005.  Mangroves v.1.0 – A multimedia identification system of mangrove species. Available in DVD.

2. Ramesh, B. R., Ayyappan, N., Grard, P., Prosperi, J., Aravajy, S. & Pascal, J.-P. 2010. Western Ghats v.1.0 – A multimedia identification system of evergreen species of the Western Ghats, India. Available in DVD & online: Link for downloads

3. Android apps: Western Ghats trees

4. Android apps: Mangroves

5. Android apps: Wikwio

External team members:

Team Members (Past): Dr.J. Prosperi, P.J.E. Kessler & C.E. Ridsdale (National Herbarium Netherlands, Leiden); Dr. Bouakhaykhone Svengsuksa (Laos PDR); Dr. Sanath Hettiarachchi & Dr. L.P. Jayatissa – Botanist (Sri Lanka); Dr. R.K. Gupta –Director Rice-Wheat Consortium; A.V. Raman (University of Andhra Pradesh); Dr. Pierre Grard, Dr. C. Edelin, Dr. J. Prosperi (UMR AMAP)


– Funding Agency(ies): French Institute of Pondicherry & European Commission under ASI@IT&C programme, ACP S&T Programme
– Partners:
  • LIAG, French Institute of Pondicherry

  • CIRAD – AMAP, Montpellier