European scientists were joined by counterparts from the USA and Japan in Reading, UK recently to plan the creation of a unified catalogue of the 1.75 million known species of living organisms on Earth within ten years. The workshop was jointly funded by the UK Biotechnology and biological sciences research council (BBSRC) and the Biological resources division of the US Geological survey (USGS). The 'Catalogue of Life', with its coverage of plants, animals, fungi and micro organisms, will be fundamental to tasks such as developing worldwide conservation strategies or understanding invasive species from other continents. The two main organisations working on the task are Species 2000, a global network based in the UK and Japan and North America's integrated taxonomic information system (ITIS). The two organisations have already collected basic reference data on 250,000 species and plan to reach 500,000 by 2003. The group is now extending a public invitation to partner organisations in the scientific community and funding sources to help complete the Catalogue of Life. Chair of Species 2000, Professor Frank Bisby compared the challenge to the recent mapping of the human genome: 'Like the genome project, the Catalogue of Life is becoming a flagship for the biodiversity community,' he said.