Rio de Janeiro / Copenhagen - A major plant collection founded by the Brazilian emperor in the 19th century has become the first dataset from Brazil to be published through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) since the country joined the network last year.
More than half a million individual records from the Rio de Janeiro Botanic Gardens (JBRJ) Herbarium can now be searched and downloaded via the GBIF data portal.
The dataset is focussed on Brazilian and South American flora, and includes specimens collected by some of the most important naturalists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The initial collection was made up of 25,000 specimens donated by the emperor Dom Pedro II in the late 19th century, including the herbarium of the French botanist Antoine-Laurent Apollinaire Fee. Other notable botanists whose specimens are included in the collection are Adolpho Ducke, Johan Löfgren, João Geraldo Kuhlmann, Paulo Campos Porto and Alexander Curt Brade.
The records in the GBIF dataset are digitized from hundreds of thousands of herbarium vouchers, containing dried plant specimens and labels giving information such as the species, location and date of collection and the name of the collector. All of this information is now searchable via the GBIF data portal at http://data.
The JBRJ Research Institute, which manages the collection, became the first data publisher from Brazil to register with GBIF since the country joined the global network in October last year. It was endorsed by the Brazilian Biodiversity Information System (SiBBr), which acts as the GBIF national node and is establishing a network of institutions whose data will be accessible both through GBIF and a national biodiversity portal. SiBBr is a project implemented by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) of Brazil, with technical support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).
The executive secretary of GBIF, Donald Hobern, welcomed the publication of the Rio herbarium dataset, saying: "It is very exciting to see this great collection being made accessible to the global community through GBIF. This is an important milestone as the first of many Brazilian datasets to be published through our network, enabling researchers throughout the world to understand more about the huge diversity of nature in Brazil - and the means to conserve it."
Rafaela Forzza, curator of the herbarium at the Rio de Janeiro Botanic Gardens Research Institute, said: "The availability of this large dataset from our collection will contribute mainly to studies on taxonomy, biogeography, and diversity of neotropical plants by scientists worldwide."
The scientific director of the institution, Rogério Gribel, emphasized "It is important that other Brazilian and Latin American institutions also make their datasets available through GBIF, allowing more precise analysis of geographic distribution of the native plant species of this region".
The general coordinator of ecosystem management at MCTI, Andrea Portela, added: "Once the SiBBr is fully implemented, we expect many other research centres to receive an extra incentive to share their data and cooperate on the construction of public policies for conservation and the sustainable use of Brazil's biodiversity."
From GBIF Secretariat:
Rafaela Campostrini Forzza
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility was founded in 2001 as an intergovernmental scientific infrastructure aimed at providing free and open access to biodiversity data, via the Internet. It currently offers a single online access point to 400 million biodiversity records from over 10,000 datasets published by nearly 500 institutions, ranging from museum specimens collected from the earliest days of natural history exploration, to current observations by 'citizen scientists' and monitoring from research expeditions. GBIF operates through a network of national and thematic 'nodes', and a secretariat based in Copenhagen, Denmark.