Kew Foundation appeal update - Documenting plant diversity at Kew's Herbarium
Through our own 250 years of evolution, Kew has become a global centre of plant science tackling urgent environmental challenges. Kew has described, identified and catalogued plants around the world, building the greatest concentration of botanical knowle
Kew’s HerbCat (www.kew.org/collections) is an online database storing label information from Herbarium specimens including collection details (where, when and by whom) and naming history (what taxon has this specimen been assigned to now and previously, when and by whom).
At the heart of this knowledge is the Herbarium, holding over eight million plant specimens, used by staff and researchers. The collection increases by 35,000 specimens annually and Kew’s taxonomists – botanists who specialise in identifying, naming and classifying plants – constantly keep the collection up to date.
However, only a fraction of their potential use is being realised and there is an urgent need to continue the digitisation programmes of the Herbarium collections (see box), particularly ‘type’ collections, the original specimens on which new species descriptions are based - Kew has over 350,000 of these.
With 130,000 specimen images already accessible online, the priority is to continue with 52,000 specimens digitally imaged each year. Digitisation will allow far more effective research and conservation globally, especially in Africa. To have at their fingertips, on their desktop PCs, the full breadth of the information held in the Kew Herbarium will help halt the continuing loss of plant diversity.
Producing digital images of specimens provides online access and has the potential to aid long-term preservation of the collection, by reducing the demand for direct handling and loans of the physical specimens.
Without voluntary funding, Kew could only deliver a fraction of its work and would have to significantly scale back activities at a time when its resources and expertise are needed more than ever.
As environmental challenges become ever more acute, the demands on Kew’s work intensify. Although we receive approximately half of our income from central government, it is the investment of voluntary income from visionary organisations and individuals that enables Kew to respond to these growing challenges.
Voluntary income enables Kew to work ahead of government, embarking on ambitious and challenging projects that break new ground.