In its November Editorial, Nature Reviews Microbiology (6, 794; 2008) reports that the archive of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM) has been made available free online: a boon for scientists, historians and the public. The Society for General Microbiology publishes IJSEM on behalf of the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes of the International Union of Microbiological Societies. The society has now provided funding for the entire back archive of the journal to be made freely available worldwide without a journal subscription. (The current content, or past two years, remains subject to access controls.)
From the Nature Reviews Microbiology Editorial: Systematics is the foundation for studies of all types of organisms, because it helps us to understand how one organism relates to another. The value of systematics is often underappreciated, however, for bacteria and viruses. For example, there is a huge imbalance between the 7,000 named bacterial species and the 1,000,000 named insect species. This is particularly important given that it is now well-known that bacteria and viruses are the most populous organisms on Earth, and furthermore, that more than 99% of bacteria have yet to be cultivated. Why should we be interested in naming and characterizing different species of bacteria? The advent of metagenomics has swelled the literature with ever-increasing estimates of numbers and types of bacteria and viruses in the biosphere. An important adjunct to genomics-based approaches is the detailed characterization of these myriad species and investigation of the relationships between them. The availability of the IJSEM archive will hopefully spur renewed interest in this area.
Jean Euzeby, the IJSEM list editor, maintains an incredibly useful web resource that details all those species that have been ratified — the List of Prokaryotic names with Standing in Nomenclature. Another useful site named Bacterial Nomenclature Up-to-Date has an up-to-date list of bacteria and is based on the work of Norbert Weiss, who maintained the database until his retirement in February 2003. The current database is maintained under the supervision of Manfred Kracht. Finally, a comprehensive taxonomy of the Bacteria and Archaea can be found in the Taxonomic Outline of Bacteria and Archaea (TOBA) Release 7.7, which was last updated in 2007.
Other useful resources are described in the Editorial.