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Repatriation of Herbarium Data for Northeastern Brazil (Project completed 2009)

Image of specimen of Lychnophora bishopii H.Rob (Compositae)

Northeastern Brazil is by far the poorest and most environmentally degraded of the country's five major regions, despite its very high plant biodiversity (an estimated minimum of 15,000 species for an area of 1.5 million km2). In order to understand and improve environmental management in the Northeast more information is required on the diverse array of plants from this region.

Kew's herbarium collections are of great importance for botanical research in NE Brazil.  To help improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of this research, Kew is facilitating access to the information contained in these collections by repatriating herbarium data on key plant families.  Initially this project was a continuation of our NE Brazil repatriation project, which shipped photographs and information directly to botanical institutes in the Brazilian Northeaast.  In 2002, however, the project (Phase 2) gave Kew the opportunity to develop methodology for image scanning in the Herbarium, and to create a website with an interactive, searchable database providing improved and wider access to the information we capture.

Repatriation of herbarium data helps Brazil meet its CBD obligations and contributes to the identification of areas of high species diversity and endemism, essential for conservation planning. At present we have completed the repatriation of 50% of the NE Brazilian collections found at Kew, with more than 28,000 specimens databased and 1,649 images of type material repatriated to each of four major Brazilian herbaria. Much of the work was undertaken by young Brazilian botanists, providing them with important opportunities to improve their taxonomic skills and visit Kew's collections for extended periods.

The species chosen reflect our Brazilian partners' conservation priorities, and also match areas of taxonomic expertise within Kew. Families covered by the programme so far include the economically and ecologically important Compositae, Leguminosae, Orchidaceae, Bromeliaceae, Araceae, Cyperaceae, Eriocaulaceae and Polygalaceae, all with significant amounts of high quality data deposited at the Kew Herbarium and now available at www.kew.org/science/tropamerica/repatriation.htm

Preliminary checklists of the repatriated families have also been published (e.g. Vol. 1: Listagem preliminar das Rubiaceae no Nordeste do Brasil/Preliminary Checklist of Rubiaceae in Northeastern Brazil - 2002; Vol. 2: Lista preliminar da Família Leguminosae na Região Nordeste do Brasil/Preliminary List of the Leguminosae in Northeastern Brazil - 2006; Vol. 4: Lista preliminar da Família Compositae na Região Nordeste do Brasil/Preliminary List of the Compositae in Northeastern Brazil - 2008).

Project partners and collaborators

Brazil

Centro de Pesquisas do Cacau (CEPEC), Bahia

Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Bahia

Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, Bahia

Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Paraíba

Universidade do Vale do Itajaí, Santa Catarina (UNIVALI)

Project funders

UKBritish American Tobacco (2001-2004)

Project team

HerbariumNicola Biggs, Nicholas Hind, Gwilym Lewis, Simon Mayo, Daniela Zappi
ISDJohn Wall, Gina Fullerlove, Lloyd Kirton
HPEMarcelo Sellaro, Nigel Taylor
Science Teams: 
Project Leader: