Today's alarmingly high rate of plant extinction necessitates an increased understanding of the world's biodiversity. An estimated 15 to 30 percent of the world's flowering plants have yet to be discovered, making efficiency an integral function of future botanical researchbut how is this best accomplished? Botanist Dr. Gerrit Davidse, John S. Lehmann Curator of Grasses at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis has collaborated with eight British botanists to quantify the role of plant collectors in the discovery of plant diversity. Their findings show a disproportionately high percentage of the world's plant discoveries have been made by just two percent of the world's most prolific and experienced collectors, implying that identifying and funding this small number of experts in the right geographic locations is vital to any effective strategy to document the world's flora. The study was published Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the British scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Proc. R. Soc. B.).
"The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation set forth by the Convention on Biological Diversity has outlined its target of a complete online world flora by 2020," said Dr. Bob Magill, senior vice president of science and conservation at the Missouri Botanical Garden. "The conclusion of this study can provide framework for the botanical community as to how we go about achieving this incredibly important goal."
Scientists are increasingly reliant on electronic databases to communicate globally about the extensive amounts of plant specimen data that have been amassed. These central repositories of data have afforded scientists the opportunity to raise novel questions that were not possible before, exploring the dynamics of plant collecting in relation to our knowledge of how new plant species are discovered.
The study looked at four datasets from some of the world's major plant collectionsthe Missouri Botanical Garden, Royal Bot
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Missouri Botanical Garden