A 1300+ word article about the World Flora Online database project
From the International Business Times:
When plant biologists and field researchers come across a species they’ve never seen before, they turn to thick encyclopedia-like volumes called monographs with titles such as Flora Braseliensis that characterize each species in a region in great detail. But not every species has been well-described in this literature. [Wayt] Thomas [curator of botany] estimates that only 10 percent of species in the American tropics have been properly characterized. And the reference materials that do exist sometimes don’t match, or are inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have access through a university.
Four of the world’s leading botanical gardens would like to change that. Since 2012, they have been working toward building a free online database called World Flora Online of the world’s plant species – all 350,000 of them – so that scientists can more easily identify plants and share information about them. Thomas calls it “the WebMD” for plant biology. With a fresh new round of funding this spring including a $1.2 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a $600,000 commitment from Google accompanied by a pledge to provide cloud storage for the project, the consortium has expanded to include 35 affiliates from around the world.
Once complete, field plant biologists will no longer have to scour the Internet for obscure reference material – Thomas curator of botany at the says it will all be right there in World Flora Online. The peer-reviewed database should also allow researchers to study the distribution and conservation status of hundreds of thousands of species at once, and layer it against data on climate or soil type.
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