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Legumes of the World Online

Legumes of the World Online (LOWO) is intended to be a one-stop-shop for legume information. Using the 2005 publication Legumes of the World as a generic backbone, other legume data sets will be added or linked to provide a web-based global legume information resource that can be easily and regularly updated with newly published legume science.

The Leguminosae is one of the largest and most economically important plant families. The Legume team at Kew is proud to have published Legumes of the World (LOW) in July 2005. This book provides an encyclopaedic overview of current knowledge of the family and is the first fully illustrated manual of all 727 genera (this number now stands at 740 in 2011). The publication synthesizes the massive advances in legume systematics over the last ten years or more and charts the molecular phylogenetic revolution that has taken place between 1994 and 2005. The text represents an enormous information resource including the number of species, global distribution and ecology, habit and uses of each genus, as well as reliable references for further information and useful notes about taxonomy including the etymology of the scientific names. The book also includes detailed hierarchical classifications from traditional and most current viewpoints of relationships in the family.

Kew has a commitment to disseminating its information more widely and Legumes of the World Online (LOWO) is a new, innovative, project whose end point will be 1) the Web-based publication of Legumes of the World; 2) an information management system facilitating maintenance of the content of this publication by the Legume team at Kew including contributions from collaborators around the world; 3) a documented understanding of the nature of the information content of this publication, the needs of the target audience for such a publication and the processes involved in generating and maintaining such a global systematic synthesis.

The latter objective is of significance beyond the Legume team’s work. This is a collaborative four year project involving Herbarium and ISD staff starting in 2006 to be divided into several distinct phases.

The objectives of Phase 1 (2006-2007) were to 1) document and define the types of information in the book and to describe how they are linked to and depend on one another; 2) specify the requirements for a system to manage and edit this information resource; 3) document ways those outside of Kew might use such a web publication; 4) mark up text to test its import into a prototype information content manager; and 5) produce and test pilot trials using 1 or more tribes. Phase 1 has been successfully completed.