Herbaria contribute to the development of e-taxonomy in Brazil

Data providers of the Brazilian Virtual Herbarium of Flora and Fungi share images through the speciesLink network and contribute to the development of e-taxonomy.

Thanks to the progress of the Brazilian Virtual Herbarium of Flora and Fungi, we would like to highlight the work of more than 80 herbaria that are openly sharing their data, thus enabling scientific research and contributing to the teaching of taxonomy in undergraduate and graduate programs in the country. To illustrate the importance of data and knowledge sharing, regardless of the size and age of the holdings, we present two very different herbaria: the New York Botanical Garden herbarium (NY), that is repatriating data of specimens collected in Brazil since 2006, and the herbarium of the University of Tocantins (HUTO), that is sharing its data through the speciesLink network since September 2012. The selection of these two herbaria as examples seeks to emphasize the importance of each herbaria participating in the network, whether large or small, and with large or restricted geographic and / or taxonomic coverage.

Evolution of images input in the speciesLink network for NY and HUTO, including the disk space required to store the data.

Small and large herbaria
Samples collected in Brazil and deposited in New York’s Botanical Garden herbarium (NY) represent the largest collection of specimen images available on-line in the speciesLink network - more than 120,000. NY also shares more than 330 thousand textual records, 90% of which are geocoded by the collection. The collection has more than 22 thousand species and more than 10 thousand type specimens. Collecting dates go as back as 1768 with samples from all Brazilian states (26) and the Federal District.

On the other hand, the herbarium HUTO of the University of Tocantins Foundation (UNITINS), was created in 2005 and has a holding of about 8 thousand herbarium specimens, of which the data of a little over 3,500 are on-line. About 65% of the records are geocoded and 95% were collected in the state of Tocantins mostly as of 2004. The on-line collection features 829 species, of which many are associated with 2 thousand high resolution images.

Physical infrastructure and people working at NY and HUTO's herbaria.

Prospects for the development of e-taxonomy
Currently, 19 Brazilian herbaria and 2 from abroad (New York Botanical Garden and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris - Collection of Saint-Hilaire), are scanning or photographing their samples, sharing more than 250 thousand images associated with textual data through the speciesLink network. Exsiccatae, an image manager and service of the speciesLink network, offers the possibility of producing catalogs or comparing the images that are retrieved through the search interface. These tools have enabled new determinations by experts through the internet that are also able to send their comments or taxonomic opinion directly to the curator, this way contributing to improve the quality of the data and stimulating the development of e-taxonomy in Brazil.

It is important to notice that the strength of the Brazilian Virtual Herbarium of Flora and Fungi is in the participation of each institution willing to share data and knowledge in an integrated manner. Although NY and HUTO differ in size, physical infrastructure and in age, both represent equally important examples for the public infrastructure of data on Brazilian biodiversity. These are just two examples of many others that also include mutual assistance and exchange of experiences, which are effectively contributing to the modernization of biodiversity research in Brazil.

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Text - Dora Canhos e Sidnei de Souza
Images - Provided by herbaria staff
Portuguese version - Herbários contribuem para o desenvolvimento da e-taxonomia no Brasil

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