Ciencia habilitada por datos de especímenes

Wu, R., Y. Zou, S. Liao, K. Shi, X. Nan, H. Yan, J. Luo, et al. 2024. Shall we promote natural history collection today?—Answered by reviewing Ernest Henry Wilson’s plant collection process in China. Science of The Total Environment 915: 170179.

Plant diversity exploration needs to be accelerated because many species will go extinct before their discovery and description, and many species-rich regions remain poorly studied. However, most contemporary plant collections prefer to focus on a specific group, which hinders the exploration and conservation of plant diversity. Therefore, we need an alternative approach to the dilemma at hand. The comprehensive Natural History Collection (NHC), which existed throughout the pinnacle of biodiversity exploration in the 20th century could be considered. We explore Ernest Henry Wilson’s (one of the most successful naturalists in the 20th) plant collections in China as a case to illustrate the advantages of NHC and discuss whether NHC deserves to be promoted again today. From multiple sources, we gathered 19,218 available specimen records of 11,884 collecting numbers assigned and analyzed the collected species, the collection's nature, and restored four routes of his explorations. Results reveal that Wilson's specimens were collected from 28 prefecture-level cities and 38 county-level regions of 7 provinces or municipalities, they belong to 200 families, 1046 genera, 3794 species, and 342 infraspecific taxa, approximately 41 %, 22 %, 10 %, 5 % of Chinese plant families, genera, species, and infraspecific taxa respectively. The Wilson case study shows that NHC is particularly effective in emphasizing species discovery and conservation, recording ecological information, understanding a region's flora, and developing landscape applications. Therefore, we strongly advocate for the expansion of natural history collections in species-rich regions. Furthermore, we recommend the employment of specialized collectors, the enlistment of international cooperation, and the standardization of guidelines for future NHCs.

Lannuzel, G., L. Pouget, D. Bruy, V. Hequet, S. Meyer, J. Munzinger, and G. Gâteblé. 2022. Mining rare Earth elements: Identifying the plant species most threatened by ore extraction in an insular hotspot. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10.

Conservation efforts in global biodiversity hotspots often face a common predicament: an urgent need for conservation action hampered by a significant lack of knowledge about that biodiversity. In recent decades, the computerisation of primary biodiversity data worldwide has provided the scientific community with raw material to increase our understanding of the shared natural heritage. These datasets, however, suffer from a lot of geographical and taxonomic inaccuracies. Automated tools developed to enhance their reliability have shown that detailed expert examination remains the best way to achieve robust and exhaustive datasets. In New Caledonia, one of the most important biodiversity hotspots worldwide, the plant diversity inventory is still underway, and most taxa awaiting formal description are narrow endemics, hence by definition hard to discern in the datasets. In the meantime, anthropogenic pressures, such as nickel-ore mining, are threatening the unique ultramafic ecosystems at an increasing rate. The conservation challenge is therefore a race against time, as the rarest species must be identified and protected before they vanish. In this study, based on all available datasets and resources, we applied a workflow capable of highlighting the lesser known taxa. The main challenges addressed were to aggregate all data available worldwide, and tackle the geographical and taxonomic biases, avoiding the data loss resulting from automated filtering. Every doubtful specimen went through a careful taxonomic analysis by a local and international taxonomist panel. Geolocation of the whole dataset was achieved through dataset cross-checking, local botanists’ field knowledge, and historical material examination. Field studies were also conducted to clarify the most unresolved taxa. With the help of this method and by analysing over 85,000 data, we were able to double the number of known narrow endemic taxa, elucidate 68 putative new species, and update our knowledge of the rarest species’ distributions so as to promote conservation measures.

Caudullo, G., E. Welk, and J. San-Miguel-Ayanz. 2017. Chorological maps for the main European woody species. Data in Brief 12: 662–666.

A novel chorological data compilation for the main European tree and shrub species is presented. This dataset was produced by combining numerous and heterogeneous data collected from 20th century atlas monographs providing complete species distribution maps, and from more recent national to regional…