CALL FOR PAPERS - Tropical Diversity Special Issue on DELTA (DEscription Language for TAxonomy)

Introduction and scope

A critical issue for the entire world is decreasing biodiversity. To reduce, and ideally stop, the losses of biodiversity, a better understanding of it is essential. The most fundamental step in this direction is to know what exists and how to identify it. The extent of the world's biodiversity has been determined by taxonomists. As the severity of the biodiversity crisis has become evident, the need to increase the efficiency of systematists and the usefulness of the data compiled by them has also became an important issue. One of the primary avenues for doing this has been the application of computer technology to systematics.

DELTA (DEscription Language for TAxonomy) is a data format for coding taxonomic descriptions of biological organisms, developed by Mike Dallwitz in Australia in the 1970's and since then became an internationally recognized standard for encoding and exchange of taxonomic descriptive data. Descriptions coded in DELTA can be used for interactive identification programs, to create identification keys, to write descriptions in various natural languages and as an exchange format generally. DELTA-compatible packages have been highly useful for the preparation of taxonomic monographs and checklists, and a number of important publications have been already been produced in this way.

The Free Delta Project was launched in April, 2000 with the aim of creating a complete cross-platform, free, open source software system for processing taxonomic descriptions coded in DELTA format, following the decision by CSIRO Division of Entomology to stop funding the development of the original DELTA programs.

Over the last twenty years, the Free Delta Project contributed software libraries for parsing DELTA-format files in several programming languages (Object Pascal, C++, and Python), as well as a software shell for running Delta programs and a specialized editor for handling taxonomic descriptive data coded in DELTA, plus all the utilities needed to process such data (format-conversion, description printing, key-construction, and distance-matrix generation).

To celebrate our achievements so far, the Free Delta Project is proud to announce a Special Issue of the journal , containing articles of general interest on the applications of the DELTA system to the collection, storage, analysis, and presentation of descriptive taxonomic data for the production of descriptions, keys, interactive identification, and information retrieval.

Articles are expected to place their work in the context of the applications of computer technology to handling taxonomic descriptive data, using the DELTA format as the primary means of representation, storage, and retrieval. Contributions providing quantitative methodologies and practical tools able to identify biological organisms will be especially appreciated. Comments on methods of application, suggestions for improvements, or criticisms of current DELTA-based technology are also encouraged.

Furthermore, this Special Issue values interdisciplinarity, and is intended for all botanical and zoological taxonomists using computers for representing, storing, retrieving, and analysing taxonomic descriptive data.

Topics of Interest

The topics relevant to this special issue include but are not limited to:

  • Production of natural-language descriptions and conventional taxonomic keys using DELTA
  • Interactive identification and information retrieval
  • Quantitative analyses of DELTA-coded taxonomic descriptive data
  • Taxonomic databases in relation to DELTA
  • Data formats for the representation and interchange of taxonomic data

Important Dates

Open Call for papers – March, 2020

Submission Deadline – October 30, 2020

Revisions Submitted – December 30, 2020

Further reviews and acceptance - March 30, 2021

Final Special Issue publication – April/May 30, 2021


Please see the journal website for instructions to authors and other information.

Publication Fees

There will be no publication fees for this Special Issue.