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Data repatriation of Mexican specimens - COMPLETED

Databasing, georeferencing and digitizing specimens to make data available worldwide  – a fundamental step towards sustainability of biological collections.
Aphelandra linearifolia - a George Hinton collection

Mexico is a mega-diverse country supporting a large number of endemic species. Kew has been involved in data repatriation of Mexican specimens since 1997, initially through editorial collaboration in the Flora of Guerrero (the third most diverse state in Mexico) and then, in 2001, through a pilot project undertaken by the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO). Over a period of three months two CONABIO staff photographed and barcoded a total of 4,517 Mexican herbarium specimens at Kew. These were databased and geo-referenced in Mexico, and returned to Kew in 2003. The records comprised 7 different families including Solanaceae, Acanthaceae and Burseraceae, amongst others. All are now incorporated in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue - HerbCat.

Since then, and with help of two Kew volunteers, Amparo Rodríguez and Catherine Haworth, Kew has provided further datasets to CONABIO for geo-referencing and incorporation in HerbCat, making them available worldwide.

In 2008 CONABIO published Capital Natural de México (CNM) (Sarukhán et al. 2008) to fulfil its commitments to the CDB. The information is gathered and made available in order to satisfy the increasing demand from different sectors of society. More than 500 specialists from diverse disciplines participated in this study to assemble the most complete, descriptive, analyzed, synthesized and up-to-date source of primary information about the biological diversity of Mexico’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems. CNM includes 66 catalogues of animal, fungal and plant species; with over 22,232 plant names organized by orders and families. The rich Mexican flora is estimated to have at least 13,171 herbaceous species, 6,800 shrubs and 4,000 trees.

In 2010, discussions with CONABIO’s director established future targets to complement the catalogues, incorporating state distribution and use data for Mexican species. To a great extent the available Kew datasets are suitable to produce more complete catalogues for the families Acanthaceae, Urticaceae, Viscaceae, Loranthaceae and selected tribes of Compositae. For these, a collaboration of plant specialists, volunteers and 2 CONABIO staff in Mexico will be working over the next two to three years.

Flora of Guerrero is an ongoing project, and since 2006 four editors have produced an average of 3 – 6 families every year, including Rubiaceae and Anacardiaceae. In 2007 a workshop on conservation assessments concluded that the Flora should include such assessments routinely, and in 2007 Lourdes Rico gave a workshop at the XVII National Botanical Congress to encourage colleagues and students to undertake conservation assessments not only for Guerrero but more widely.

Commitments to Flora Mesoamericana include the preparation of text in Spanish for 12 genera of derived Mimosoideae, now 70% complete. During this process numerous Kew specimens have been databased and are accessible in HerbCat.

Key papers published since 2006

  • Rico Arce, M. de L. (2007). A checklist and synopsis of American species of Acacia (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae). Conabio, Mexico.
  • Rico Arce, M. de L., Moreno, E. & Rodríguez, A. (2008). Las colecciones de Leguminosas efectuadas por George B. Hinton, depositadas en el Herbario de Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Acta Bot. Mex. 84: 73 – 92.
  • Sarukhán, J. et al. 2008. Capital Natural de México. Conocimiento actual de la biodiversidad. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, México. Vol. I – III.
  • Téllez, O. & Rico Arce, M de L. (2008). Leguminosas (Dicotiledóneas). In: S. Ocegueda & J. Llorente-Bousquets (eds), Catálogo taxonómico de especies de México. In: Capital natural de México, vol. I: Conocimiento actual de la biodiversidad. CONABIO. México, Electrónic version, CD1.
  • Téllez Valdés, O., Blanco Fernández de Caleya, P. & Rico-Arce, M de L. (2010). Tipificación y actualización nomenclatural en Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae) descritas o relacionadas con las colecciones de Martín de Sessé y José Mariano Mociño. Anales Jard. Bot. Madrid 67: 49 – 63.

Project partners and collaborators


Koleff Patrica, Eduardo Morales G., Elizabeth Moreno Gutierrez and GIS team in CONABIO Nelly Diego and Rosa Maria Fonseca, Science Faculty, UNAM

Martha Gonzalez E., Institute of Ecology (CIDIIR), Durango

Aniceto Mendoza Ruiz, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM)

Juan Tun, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán (UADY)


Tom Daniel, Academy of Sciences, California

Tom Wendt, Austin, Texas

Garret Davidse, Flora Mesoamerica Project, Missouri Botanical Garden


Alex Monro and Sandra Knapp - Flora Mesoamericana Project, Botany Department, Natural History Museum

Project Department