Approaching the landmark achievement of the completion of Kew's major African Flora projects, there is need to make the information they contain accessible to as wide an audience as possible. This audience, which includes both taxonomic- and conservation- oriented programmes within Kew, also includes a wide range of user-groups with an interest in botany outside of Kew, including conservationists, natural resource managers and education professionals.
Starting in 2001, eFloras was developed against the background of the growth in biodiversity informatics and in e-taxonomy, both in-house, and through major external biodiversity informatics projects such as EDIT. The activities involve ongoing collaboration with partner European taxonomic institutions to raise project funding, to develop standards and ensure interoperability, and to establish exploratory projects with partners who are non-traditional Flora users, which in turn helps to broaden the understanding of user-needs.
As well as building on the co-ordination expertise and networks vital to successful completion of large-scale taxonomic projects, Kew has led in developing methods for text mark-up of legacy botanical information. We have digitised all volumes of Flora Zambesiaca up to 2007, available as a fully searchable database online (http://apps.kew.org/efloras), as well as Flora of Tropical East Africa, Flora of West Tropical Africa, Flora of Tropical Africa, Flora Capensis and the Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa for the African Plants Initiative – all available via JSTOR Plant Science (http://plants.jstor.org/). Further, we have also assisted with knowledge transfer to EU partners (eg.digitisation of Flora Malesiana at Leiden, Flore d'Afrique Centrale at NBGB).
Kew's eFloras project has taken the lead in identifying new users of Flora data such as Earth systems scientists and ecologists researching global change. Through partnership with the TRY database project (co-ordinated by the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry at Jena), information on plant morphological and geographical traits has been provided to approximately 40 such research projects.
The eFloras platform is conceived to be the starting point for generating portable field guides (via paper, internet or mobile applications) and to providing information for species and habitat conservation assessments and restoration projects. It has a role in the compilation and maintenance of regional and global checklists of names as well as a source of treatments for a " World Flora". It is equally a repository for updated or augmented information, and will also provide a platform for prospective publishing of taxon treatments.
A key impact of eFloras will be the instant provision of up-to-date floristic information in electronic form in a variety of formats targeted to particular uses which has hitherto not been available.
Project partners and collaborators
National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise (NBGB)
Botanisher Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem (BGBM)
TRY database project, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC), Jena
Nederlands Centrum voor Biodiversiteit (NBC) Naturalis
South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)