The value of taxonomies vs flat lists

I’m having a bit of a think… does a taxonomic breakdown of species (ie order -> family -> genus -> species) add much value?

I thought it did at first but beginning to wonder now – Lee Evans has sent me his UK400 lists for UK and Western Palearctic to use as options for species lists, and these are literally lists rather than hierarchies unlike the way the IOC structures its lists.

My thinking initially was that it would be useful as a memory prodder – if I’ve been to somewhere that has lots of dabbling ducks it would be useful to see all the dabbling ducks grouped together in case I had forgotten one.

In reality I’m finding that I rarely use the taxonomic structure and just go straight to the flat list.

What I’m currently leaning towards is the option (on two levels) to select whether you want to use a flat list or a taxonomic hierarchy. Just using a flat list certainly has a big impact in terms of performance – currently it takes 5-10 seconds to load up the full BOU list as a hierarchy when I start the program but it takes less than a second if I just load it as a flat list of species.

The other benefit of being able to just use a flat list is that it makes it easier to import or set up different lists – for example loading those UK400 lists, otherwise I need to try and reverse-engineer where species fit into the taxonomy.

What you’d lose if you elected to use just a flat list would be the ability to report on how many species of duck you’d recorded as percentage of all ducks on the list. I did like that facility but maybe its not worth it.

Any thoughts?