All Vascular Types On-line: The Global Plants Initiative

The Global Plants Initiative (GPI) is an international collaboration aiming to digitise and make available plant type specimens, together with other botanical resources, for scholarly purposes. The GPI network of content providers currently includes more than 166 partner herbaria representing over 57 countries.

Two active partner networks currently exist, representing the main regional foci of the first two stages of the global project. The African Plants Initiative (API) grew out of discussions at the 2003 AETFAT conference, while the first meeting of the Latin American Plants Initiative (LAPI) was held in 2007. LAPI includes partners already active in API as well new parties with a specific interest in the Latin American region. Several of the larger herbaria with international collections are now moving ahead with digitisation of type material from regions outside of Africa and Latin America. Meanwhile, the global network continues to expand and now includes its first Asian partner in Nepal. Since its inception in 2003, this global effort to digitise and provide access to plant types has been funded and spearheaded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The output of GPI is presented through JSTOR Plant Science an online environment that brings together content, tools, and people interested in plant science. It provides access to baseline data vital to plant science – plant type specimens, taxonomic structures, scientific literature, and related materials, making them widely accessible to the plant science community as well as to researchers in other fields and to the public. Individuals from subscribing bodies can register for a personal account allowing access to sophisticated and powerful functionality. This includes the ability to view and manipulate high quality, high resolution, digital images of specimens and to perform morphological analyses with the help of a precise measurement tool. Users can tag objects of particular interest and share these tags with collaborators, colleagues and classmates. The resource has potential uses for those researching, teaching or studying botany, biology, ecology, environmental and conservation studies.

The Global Plants Initiative project aims to digitise in the region of 2 million records of plant type specimens from around the world, with over 800,000 specimens having been digitised for the project to date. In addition the JSTOR Plant Science resource currently includes over 100,000 taxon entries from digitised Floras, almost 16,000 archival objects, over 14,000 photographs of live plants, habitats and plant-based artefacts and more than 6,500 paintings, illustrations and drawings. Users are able to perform searches across all of these objects by text searches of metadata fields, or by a hierarchical browsing method. Where objects are linked to taxon names, as currently implemented for the African Checklist, results are grouped under species pages. The searches also return relevant articles from JSTOR's linked collection of scientific journal articles, which includes key taxonomic titles such as the American Journal of Botany, Kew Bulletin and Taxon.

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