Classification Sources

Classification Sources

NatureServe scientists use a set of generally accepted references, augmented by recent scientific literature and expert opinion, to establish a standard "global" scientific name and taxon circumscription (that is, the name for the biological entity) for every element (plant, animal, or ecological community and system) tracked in the NatureServe Central Databases. These are the names used in NatureServe Explorer.

For details on the sources for names used by NatureServe and reported in NatureServe Explorer, please see:

Classification of Plants

Classification of Vertebrates and Invertebrates

Classification of Standard Ecological Units

Synonyms and Other Related Names

Sometimes a taxon is recognized locally or in an official listing (e.g., U.S. ESA, COSEWIC) by a name that differs from that used by NatureServe. In these cases it is advantageous to maintain database records using those names as well. Such names are recorded as synonyms to the global standard name, and all data for the record are accessible through NatureServe Explorer using any of these alternative names.

The most common situations where this occurs are when a taxon is recognized locally or in an official listing:

  • using a name that differs from that used by NatureServe;
  • as a species, subspecies, or variety that is not recognized as distinct by NatureServe; or
  • at a different taxonomic level than recognized by NatureServe.

Local member programs track their own names in addition to the global standard names. In some cases, data for a name or taxon not recognized by NatureServe (sometimes referred to as a nonstandard element) must be maintained only under the alternate name (e.g., when the conservation status ranks assigned to the nonstandard element differ from the ranks assigned to the element recognized in the standard classification).

Explanatory notes provide additional information on elements whose taxonomic status is controversial, uncertain, or has been recently modified. NatureServe Explorer reports standard global names and includes synonyms and nonstandard elements where possible in order to accurately reflect the names most often used for tracking a particular taxon.


Copyright 2019
State and Provincial Distribution data sources. US ESA and Canada COSEWIC national status. The Heritage Conservation Status Rank System and definitions.