Many recent models of global trends in different aspects of biodiversity often assume that taxonomic changes and errors will have a minor effect on their estimates. This is based on the belief that these changes will be randomly distributed along the globe and the tree of life. However, taxonomic reorganizations are often uneven, both in space and along the phylogeny. Due to this, global estimates that do not account for the potential uncertainty in the taxonomic status may contain many unnoticed errors, and therefore may fail to represent the actual patterns of, e.g. species richness or diversification. In this commentary we use an example from the history of the species descriptions and revisions of Amazonian palms to show the potential importance of taxonomic uncertainty for species richness estimates. We call for incorporating metrics accounting for such uncertainty into global models.

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