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How to build regional registers and to produce area checklists.


A register of names is simply a list of names.  In the case of taxonomic names it is a authoritative list and by authoritative it is implied that a source for this name is also provided.  Standardization of the spelling of the scientific name and authorship and of the taxonomy is accomplished through the association of the name with a standard code that is associated with a master database.  Two such standards have been suggested by the IOC/IODE GE-BICH – these are the ITIS TSN and the WoRMS Aphia_id.


A regional register of species is a comprehensive list of taxonomic names for a defined area. One of the aims of the DFO taxonomic standards group is to promote the idea of using a regional register of names to quality control datasets containing biogeographical distribution data.  Regional registers will require regular review and maintenance.  The fact that a name currently is not listed in the register does not automatically mean that the name was incorrectly assigned.  What it does mean is that according to the authoritative sources cited that presence of this taxa has never before been recorded for this area.  The inclusion of a new species on a list could be due to invasion and/or different sampling criteria


The objective of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is to provide an authoritative and comprehensive list of names of marine organisms.  Checklists of names for identified geographic areas can be extracted from geographical distribution notes in WoRMS.


It is difficult for global initiatives to include verified information of relevance to local areas unless there is participation from local experts. One of the objectives of the Canadian register of marine species is to compile authoritative distribution notes for taxa found in areas of interest to Canadian researchers and to provide these notes and definitions for the areas of interest to WoRMS.


Within DFO Science the NSDMC has funded the formation of a taxonomic standards steering committee.  Participants on this committee represent the seven DFO regions:  NL, Mar, Gulf, Que, NCR, C&A and Pac.  Activities overseen by this steering committee include the following updates to the existing CaRMS:

  1. include names from areas other than the Maritimes
  2. append authoritative distribution notes for defined areas
  3. include definitions for geographic areas not included in the WoRMS/NSDMC gazetteer


Historically we have referred to our list of species for different geographic areas as different registers of species. Under the NSDMC taxonomic standards umbrella the aim is to bring all of the Canadian regional registers and local checklists into one database which will be referred to as the Canadian register of aquatic biodiversity.  The Canadian Register of Marine Species (CaRMS) is the marine component of this database.

Locally, the term ‘regional register’ will still be utilized.  Local experts will define the general area covered by their register.  This area must include not just the geographical scope but also the taxonomic scope.  As an example, the following excerpt was taken from the register of the Antarctic marine species (RAMS) -  The taxonomic scope of RAMS covers Antarctic species from the three realms of the Southern Ocean: the sea floor (meio-, macro- and megazoobenthos; micro- and macrophytobenthos), the water column (phytoplankton, zooplankton, nekton) and the sea-ice.


The steps involved in building a regional register are as follows:

  1. Define the context – who is creating this register? (DFO; PAC; PAC-PBS;)
  2. Define the geographic area to be covered (NE Pacific, Arctic, NW Atlantic, Lake Winnipeg)
  3. Choose/define distribution areas of interest
    1.  the WoRMS gazetteer Vlimar contains a list of standard, relational geographic names with information and geographic locations (IHO 23-3rd: Limits of Oceans and Seas, Special Publication 23, 3rd Edition 1953, published by the International Hydrographic Organization.)
    2. if there are authoritative areas of interest that are not included in the IHO list and/or not displayed on Vlimar and/or displayed ‘incorrectly’ then Vliz should be contacted (by CaRMS)
    3. If there are sampling areas of interest that local experts wish to have included in the register then these areas must be defined and submitted to the NSDMC polygons project for inclusion in the NSDMC gazetteer.  Negotiations will be conducted with WoRMS re the inclusion of these place names in their gazetteer.
  4. Compile a list of authoritative sources and flag the source as published material, internet, expert, database. Map this list to the CaRMS and WoRMS list of sources.  New sources must be provided to the Canadian register of species.
  5. Compile a list of taxonomic names from the above sources that indicate presence in the defined areas.  (Note it is also possible to include notes stating that a taxon is not found in a defined area.)
  6. Create a metadata record for the register describing the geographic and taxonomic scope.


An example


The Gulf of St. Lawrence was chosen as an area that might be of interest to all four east coast DFO regions (NL, Mar, Gulf and Quebec). This geographic area is included within the defined coverage area of the existing ARC (Atlantic Reference Centre) register, NWARMS.  It is not necessary to create a new separate register for this area but simply to include a distribution note indicating presence in the ‘Gulf of St. Lawrence’.  A checklist for this area can then be created from the master register.


The following two papers describe the distribution of taxa in the Gulf of St Lawrence:

  • For fish and northern shrimp (Dutil, J.-D., R. Miller, C. Nozères, B. Bernier, D. Bernier, et D. Gascon. 2006. Révision des identifications de poissons faites lors des relevés scientifiques annuels d'évaluation de l'abondance des poissons de fond et de la crevette nordique dans l'estuaire et le nord du golfe du Saint-Laurent. Rapp. manus. can. sci. halieut. aquat. 2760 : x + 87 p.)
  • For invertebrates (Brunel, P., Bosse, L., Lamarche, G., Pelletier, L., Morin, Y., and Bazin, A.  1998.  Publication speciale canadienne des sciences halieutiques et aquatiques; 126; Canadian special publication of fisheries and aquatic sciences; 126: xi + 405 p.)
    • Not available online

References to these two publications should be appended to the database sources table.  The type of source should be set as ‘p’ for publication.  There are other options for source types but for now we are concentrating on using authoritative published sources for our content.


The definition for the Gulf of St Lawrence exists in the Vlimar gazetteer, although the shape file needs refinement.  As a start, perhaps we should choose geographic names from the IHO definition list as opposed to ecoregions, etc. There may also be a MEOW definition for the geographical area, as there is for the Gulf. If the authoritative source refers to presence in the MEOW region then this is the area to choose.


Our use of Vlimar should identify any quirks that we would like improved.  These may include definitions of the areas but more likely our comments will refer to the associated shape files created by Vliz from the wordy definitions. The spelling of the locality name may also need refinement.  For example, currently there is one entry for the Gulf of St. Lawrence and one for the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  Only local data managers are likely to identify and report on these inconsistencies.  By collaboration we can help improve this marine gazetteer.


Definitions for our areas should be reviewed and tidied.  Should the Canso area and Bras d’or lakes should be included as part of the Gulf?



An entry may now be made in the CaRMS register linking a taxonomic name with the defined area and an authoritative source.  It is possible to include a distribution note – this is a descriptive/text field and could include the entire geographical distribution content from the source. The benefit of a simple copy/paste of the notes directly from the source is that there is less likelihood of losing and or assuming information.  Plus, it provides the advantage that if the distribution notes for this species are to be refined, the expert does not need to go retrieve the original source – all information has already been recorded.


One issue that must be taken into consideration is our definition of ‘authoritative’.  Not all published material is authoritative.  Data reports are not authoritative.  Perhaps our taxonomic editors can assume the role of assigning the status of authoritative or not authoritative.  For example, the following is a useful publication related to checklists of names but is it an authoritative source? Its content is based upon the species lists that we wish to review.

C. Nozères, D. Archambault, P.-M. Chouinard, J. Gauthier, R. Miller, E. Parent, P. Schwab, L. Savard, J.-D. Dutil 2009. Guide to the identification of the marine fishes of the estuary and northern Gulf of St. Lawrence and sampling protocols used during trawl surveys between 2004 and 2008. Canadian Technical Report of  Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences xxxx (in press).  .


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