Reliable biogeographic generalizations generally depend on a valid and useful scientific literature. The problem in marine biology, and especially phycology, has been the assimilation of large bodies accumulated over time and published in various languages. This paper shows how contemporary
technologies can be used to bring some order to the analysis of such information. An electronic database was used to evaluate historical and taxonomic database characteristics. This analytic technique, combined with a detailed scientific background, has shown that there may be some basic patterns
against which specific biogeographic hypotheses can be tested. A phycological database demonstrates these points. A substantial body of literature describes the history of collection and taxonomic analysis of benthic marine algae from the tropical and subtropical western Pacific. The haphazard
nature of these data and size of the database has made this literature largely inaccessible to critical analysis. Over 11,000 citations to taxa were assembled for this study from the literature of the Philippines, Australia, Taiwan and Malaysia. Biogeographic use of floristic ratios determined
from the reports of single papers is shown to be suspect. Historical trends in the total number of citations and the occurrence of new introductions of taxa to the record led to generation of a cumulative taxa curve. This history is the basis for an informed selection of reliable data. It
can be combined with an evaluation of the degree of repetition and consistency in reports and selection of taxonomic groups most thoroughly reported. This approach is expected to have general applicability to any large taxonomic information base using data collected by multiple investigators
working with various perspectives at different times.
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