Many areas of science have adopted nomenclature rules that facilitate research and communication. In contrast, ecological terminology is constantly redefined across disciplines, plagued with synonymy and polysemy, and foundational terms (and the theories and hypotheses behind them) are overlooked. We contend that this situation handicaps the progress of ecology. We review the causes and consequences of terminological uncertainty and propose a convention of ecological nomenclature (CEN) as an indispensable requirement of ecological synthesis. The core components of a CEN are its endorsement by a transnational institution; a policy framework managed by an advisory committee; and a centralized, peer-reviewed revision of terminology whereby ecologists are proponents and users of a unique, open-access repository of terms, definitions, and ontologies. A CEN should become the basis of a cross-disciplinary platform of communication among ecologists, journals, and the public and aligns with the ongoing initiative toward data globalization in ecology and other disciplines.
- ecological synthesis
- terminological uncertainty